It has been a painful week for a lot of Zimbabwean households and businesses due to incessant blackouts. Starting last week, most households had been spending at least 18 hours without power but recently ZESA seems to have increased the hours to 20 hours. In most places power goes out at around 04:00 AM when most people are asleep and only comes back around midnight when most people are fast asleep. Businesses, even formal ones have not been spared either. During our recent research, we found out that both Lighton and Graniteside Industrial areas were being put under load-shedding.

Sharing a mere 500MW

The reason we are seeing increased load-shedding is because of depressed generation at Kariba where Zimbabwe is now only allowed to produce 300 MW of power because of low water levels. We faced the same situation back in 2019 when the bulk of the country had to make do with 19-hour blackouts. The strategy and solution back then was to import power from neighbouring countries. That is now much harder to do as most neighbouring countries are also now dealing with power deficits of their own. Both Zambia and South Africa have introduced loadshedding.

The story of Zimbabwe’s power woes is decades old. The government thanks to corruption, economic meltdowns, sanctions and sheer incompetence has failed to plug the gap. Every Zimbabwean knows it all by heart. We need about 2 000-2 200 MW of power at peak demand. At best we generate just over half of this but at the moment we are barely making 500 MW of power.

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Power StationPotential capacityWhat is actually being produced
Kariba South Power Station1050MW200MW
Hwange Power Station920MW301MW
Munyati Power Station100MW0MW
Bulawayo Power Station90MW0MW
Harare Power Station50MW0MW
Total2210MW501MW
Data from Zimbabwe Power Company

On paper, Zimbabwe can produce all the power it needs but just like our roads, most of our power stations are past their sell-by dates. Hwange is an example. The creaky units there are in dire need of refurbishment as they should have been decommissioned and upgraded aeons ago. Currently, the government is working with partners to build a new Unit at Hwange which they say will produce 600MW. After it comes online the government and its partners will work on refurbishing and upgrading the old units with new generators with bigger capacity and more efficiency. Had the government done this in the past instead of awarding tenders to briefcase companies the situation would not be nearly as bad as this.