Eskom’s woes force Zimbabwe to escalate power cuts
Daily outages go beyond 18 hours a day
Zimbabwe’s state-owned Zesa Holdings has escalated electricity cuts to as long as 24 hours after losing power imports from Eskom while its local generation capacity remains critically constrained.
The power utility has a non-binding agreement to import as much as 400MW of power from Eskom Holdings, which is unable to meet local demand and has implemented rolling blackouts now in their sixth day.
“Load-shedding is thus being implemented over and above the advertised schedule,” Zesa said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.
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Zimbabwe has been experiencing daily outages of as much as 18 hours daily, partly because a drought has slashed its hydropower supply. The situation is worsened by frequent breakdowns at its main thermal power station, Hwange.
Faced with acute foreign currency shortages and piles of foreign and local debt, Zimbabwe has been struggling to pay for power supplied by Eskom and by the Cahora Bassa hydro plant.
Energy minister Fortune Chasi told journalists at a post-cabinet briefing that Eskom had continued to supply power to Zimbabwe despite SA’s power crisis.
“Although the South Africans are experiencing challenges in their power sector, they have continued to supply us.
“We are safe and sound at the moment, but we are doing everything we can to ensure that we achieve energy security in Zimbabwe. Should there be challenges in that area, I have no doubt that our SA brothers and sisters will communicate that to us.
“As of now, that communication has not been made and we continue to receive as according to the undertaking that we made in our contract with them.”
Chasi said Zimbabwe is aware that it could lose power from SA, and its government has taken a position that it should “diversify our sources of power, even from an importation point of view”.
Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira, however, said the power utility had started to increase load-shedding on account of reduced imports from regional neighbours, although he did not refer to Eskom in particular.