A street vendor waits for customers in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, July 16 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
A street vendor waits for customers in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, July 16 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Harare — Several companies face possible closure in a new blow to Zimbabweans feeling the pinch of  eighteen-hour daily power cuts. 

Econet, the country’s largest mobile operator with more than 11-million subscribers, was disconnected on Saturday and only resumed services on Sunday.

As the country’s economy crisis deepens cash is no longer readily available in Zimbabwe’s banks and most citizens rely on mobile money payments, in particular Econet’s Ecocash system which enjoys a near-monopoly in transactions.

The loss of Econet’s service led most retailers to close shop while several others businesses were severely affected.

In a brief statement to its subscribers, Econet said the blackout had resulted from a power cut.

 “Our engineers are busy working to resolve a network fault that started when generators at our network operations centre failed to kick off following a Zesa power outage. The problem has since been isolated and our technical teams are working flat out to resolve the issue. We sincerely regret the inconvenience this has caused to our customers,” said Econet.

Last week manufacturers sent an urgent appeal to the government urging intervention to avoid the closure of operations.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Henry Ruzvidzo said the power cuts had prevented some exporters from meeting targets.

“The power cuts have affected business severely. The loss of revenue runs into millions. In some cases export orders are under threat due to lack of performance. The situation calls for urgent solutions before irreparable damage occurs to our fledgling industries."

Some new investors said they now doubted the wisdom of investing  in the country.  The persistent power cuts had led to losses and an increase in production costs.

Chinese company Sunny Yi Feng, which started operating in the country in 2019 after investing $120m, said it had suffered a loss of $1,3m in production due to power cuts.

Other companies told Business Day that the power challenges had been compounded by the shortage of diesel for generators. 

Several companies have been forced to send workers home as operations are often halted due to power cuts.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which represents the largest constituency of workers, said many workers had been sent on forced leave while others were being laid off due to the power cuts.