Zimbabweans have been expressing their outrage at the government for failing to solve the power deficit in Zimbabwe. A lot of households are going for 16 hours without electricity due to various faults at Hwange and Kariba. Most have been highlighting how providing adequate electricity was one of the President’s most explicit promises during the 2018 elections. The Deputy Chief Secretary-Presidential Communications in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe, George Charamba recently went on Twitter in a bid to put out fires on the issue. He wrote the following lengthy explanation in a bid to explain why the government was failing to solve the issue. Long story short he blamed sanctions.

Here is the full thread.

Today we shall discuss the power situation (Magetsi) in 🇿🇼. We shall discuss facts & figures, challenges currently faced by the country, causes & possible remedies, all in the spirit of engagement & nation building. RT [Retweet] & tell everyone to follow this account to learn & contribute
The current furoe about power shortage was heightened by the recent nationwide blackout on 27/09/2022, which was a result of a now rectified fault. However, we must admit that our country has faced intermittent power supply disruptions, in some cases due to load shedding. The situation which has been a result of a myriad of challenges, among which obsolete generating equipment at our thermal stations and general inadequacy of capacity top the bill.

Over the years the country has been able to augment supplies through import from exporting countries on the Southern African Power Pool. However, recent generating difficulties in South Africa have added pressure to the available capacity in the region.

Zimbabwe needs between 1600-2200MW of power to be able to meet it’s needs. Looking at the current installed capacity in the country one would be made to believe that the country should be energy self sufficient, & sufficient we must be, but for historical reasons, we are not.

Zimbabwe’s installed generating capacity amounts to 2250MW of power, broken down as follows Hwange 920MW, Kariba 1050MW , Munyati 100MW ,Harare 90MW ,Bulawayo 90MW giving a Total 2250MW. Ideally, at the current power consumption, we would be energy self sufficient, but a thermal power plant has life expectancy of not more than 25 yrs, yet Hwange, our biggest station was built between 1983-1986, making it 36+yrs old. This has made the station the most unreliable of them due to intermittent breakdowns. In recent years, ZPC has faced challenges sourcing for spare parts to keep the turbines turning. This has increased down time, resulting in the current near-zero megawatt output from the station. Until recently, Hwange Power Station was literally disintegrating at the weight of sanctions which increased country risk & scared away investors & suppliers of spare parts. Sourcing for spares through third parties has been very expensive for the utility. The recent resolution by the G7 to ban all new Coal Powered Generating projects saw a few commitments to develop new stations & to repair old ones being withdrawn, denting the country’s chances of benefitting from it’s abundant coal reserves. At the same time, with sanctions still in place, it is almost impossible for the country to benefit from technology transfer in the renewable energy sector.

[Note even though the fault is said to have been rectified ZESA had issued another notice on the 24 of September were they cleary said they issues with depressed generation. No word on how this is going.]

Part of the Secretary’s full Twitter thread on why we have power deficits

The partial explanation that does not absolve the government

While this explanation is quite a on point. Zimbabwe is facing a power deficit because most of the potential power generation capacity at Hwange, Kariba and other stations is not being realised. This is because the equipment there is old and sourcing parts for it is hard. That might seem like an explanation that would absolve the government in the eyes of officials but it is not. The government in power has been in charge for the past 40 years. They, therefore, do not get a pass. They have had decades to crack this thing but they chose short-term solutions such as importing power from other countries as it was cheaper than repairing and upgrading their own plants. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and they want to deflect blame.

Then there is corruption and the usual murky government behaviour. Officials at ZESA and ZPC have famously awarded a solar tender to a briefcase company called Intratrek and proceeded to pay it US$5 million dollars. A U.S company got a power generation contract torn off from its hands for no apparently good reason and little progress has been made on Batoka which continues to be one of those dusty old projects the government wheels out every time we have a power crisis-kind of like free education promises we get on the eve of each election.

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