Zimbabwe is paying the price for lack of foresight and leadership with rolling power cuts that have intensified over the past few days.
A number of businesses are now being forced to operate on generators with Zesa’s load-shedding now stretching for over 12 hours every day.
However, not many companies will be able to sustain their operations through generators as they have to spend more on fuel, which is also in short supply.
Zesa blames the increased power cuts on a fault at the Hwange thermal power station.
Zimbabwe was already facing a serious shortfall in electricity generation due to dwindling water levels at Kariba Dam.
The reduced capacity at the country’s only source of hydropower coincided with problems at the thermal power station whose equipment has become obsolete.
Zesa is also struggling to pay regional power suppliers such as Eskom of South Africa, which have suspended their electricity allocation to Zimbabwe.
The local power utility owes Eskom US$23 million after scrapping through last week to pay US$10 million.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is reportedly scheduled to meet his South Africa counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa today to discuss a potential rescue plan for
The meeting shows the desperate situation Zimbabwe finds itself in, but this could have been avoided.
For years, the government has neglected the energy sector to the extent that renewable power alternatives such as solar have not been exploited enough.
In contrast, Zambia, which shares Kariba Dam with Zimbabwe, stopped importing electricity last year.
The neighbouring country now generates enough electricity for its consuption from various sources that include biomass and coal.
In recent years, Zambia invested US$375 million on a hydropower station at Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, which is now one of its major sources of electricity.
That country invested money in hydro and solar power generation in recent years, making the country self-sufficient in energy.
There are prospects that Zambia would be exporting surplus electricity to neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe soon.
This is a feat that Zimbabwe could have easily achieved because of the abundant opportunities for solar power generation and the vast coal deposits.
That the country has not attracted investment into the energy sector is a reflection of poor leadership and the general inertia that has characterised policy
implementation since independence.
The handling of the energy crisis by the Mnangagwa government does not inspire confidence that the power cuts will end any time soon.
Zimbabwe needs much more than rhetoric to solve the electricity crisis and get the economy working again.