Tuesday, September 10, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) ZESA denies sabotage allegations
16/08/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

ZESA has rejected claims that an upscale in power supply interruptions in recent days was part of a bid by the company to sabotage the economy following President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s victory in last month’s elections.

Users have accused the company of deliberately increasing load-shedding after the elections in what is seen as an attempt by management to demonstrate the adverse impact of an order by Zanu PF to cancel all outstanding bills.

ZESA says customers owe up to US$450 million in unpaid bills and management blames the debt for the utility’s problems in paying regional suppliers.

But the company has rejected allegations it was sabotaging the country’s economy.

“ZESA is concerned with the extremely sad and unfortunate reports in the media suggesting that the current load shedding regime deliberately being undertaken to sabotage the economy. The perception is sadly not correct,” the utility said in a statement Friday.

Zimbabwe does not generate enough power to meet its needs and ZESA has, for years, rationed supplies to both domestic and commercial users as efforts to import additional power from regional counterparts were undermined by the utility’s financial problems.

Power supplies improved markedly in the lead-up to the July 31 elections but load-shedding suddenly increased after the vote with parts of Harare subjected to 24 hour cuts and similar developments reported in other urban centres such as Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and Chitungwiza.

But ZESA said regional counterparts had only agreed to improve supplies to help facilitate the smooth running of the elections adding that some of the companies had even deferred their maintenance programmes to ensure Zimbabwe had adequate power for the polls.

“To ensure the smooth running of elections, ZESA Holdings requested and received additional electricity support from the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and some of these utilities had to defer their own maintenance in order to accommodate our position,” management said.

“This support however cannot be sustained in the long term due to power shortage in their own countries. This support enabled the power utility to effect very minimal load shedding during the election period. Complementing this was an improved performance at Hwange Power Station.

“After the elections, imports were reduced because sister utilities needed to undertake maintenance that had been deferred. The situation is being further compounded by depressed reduced imports (sic) due to plant maintenance from Hydro Cahorra Bassa.

“Maintenance at HCB is scheduled to be completed today, Thursday, 15th August, 2013, after which supplies are expected to improve if the exercise is completed as scheduled.

Energy minister Elton Mangoma of the MDC-T last year ordered ZESA to disconnect non-paying customers saying the country could not invest in improving its generation capacity if customers fail to pay for supplies.
“This culture of non-payment of bills will not be allowed to continue,” he said.

“There is a need for electricity consumers to pay for what they have consumed so that ZESA has capacity to increase electricity availability to all consumers.”

However, ahead of last month’s elections, and in a decision welcomed by users, local government minister Ignatius Chombo ordered a cancelation of municipal debts as well as outstanding ZESA bills.

Customers claimed the decision had infuriated ZESA management who were said to have reacted by increasing load-shedding in a bid to demonstrate the adverse effects of Chombo’s order.

Still, ZESA insisted said there was no link between the elections and the country’s power supply problems adding the problems had also been worsened by the breakdown of key units at Hwange power station.

“Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) lost four units over the past two weeks at different times, which reduced output from 700MW to 200MW,” the company said.

“Four units have since been restored to service generating a combined 530MW at Hwange, instead of 700MW. Generation is however still fragile at Hwange Power Station.

“These facts, for which there is documentary evidence, clearly show that there is therefore no causal link between the power supply situation and the harmonised elections.

“We wish to remind our customers that the country has been experiencing power supply deficit of about 400MW at any given period since 2007, due to obsolete equipment which is not able to generate optimally for a sustainable period.

“This position will prevail until ZESA, or some independent power producer, introduces additional capacity through a new power station.”

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