Zimbabwe is one of those countries in which the citizens seem to be living in a twisted horror version of Groundhog Day. The same mundane problems keep happening over and over again and it seems our lives are on repeat. One of those repetitive nightmares is load-shedding and despite the winning and excuses ZESA and the government are fully to blame on this one.
For the past two decades or so ZESA has been generating less power than this country needs. Even school going teens are now familiar with the equation which is often repeated whenever load-shedding is introduced. “Zimbabwe needs around 2 100MW of power at peak demand while ZESA’s ZPC only produces about 1 600MW.” What they never go on to tell you is that Zimbabwe has the installed capacity to generate 2 100MW and even more but thanks to corruption, incompetence and lack of political will that has not happened.
“Bring back Chibabest”
One thing Zimbabweans seem to be keenly aware of however in the wake of the devastating 12-hour powercut schedule is the fact that better leadership at ZESA can bring about better results. Most of us remember the power cuts of 2019 when we would spend 18-19 hours without power. As always the government did not accept responsibility then, they blamed nature and said it was all due to drought. They cannot blame nature now given we have had the wettest season in recent memory but you will see them try.
Back then an apparent saviour emerged in former Energy Minister Fortune Chasi, a man people loved to hate and troll but came to respect. The major reaction to this new schedule has scores of people clamouring for his return. When he was installed as Energy Minister he seemed to approach his unenviable task with gusto.
One thing people loved about him were his constant updates on the power situation. Even the bad updates, which led to him being excoriated by the public were appreciated. He, unlike the anaemic and mostly invisible minister of Energy, engaged with the public. Each morning there were posts of stolen, destroyed transformers from remote corners of the country and his rant on how “thieves” were causing damage to the country’s grid.
He moved to fix the large power deficit by engaging with neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and South Africa. We knew about faults at Hwange as soon as they happened. These days we are told after the fact when we are already knee-deep in powercuts.
Currently, ZESA and the government cannot even explain their so-called expansion projects on Hwange Thermal Power station and Kariba in terms that I and the wider public can understand. They keep referring to meaningless internal language like Station 6 is at blah blah per cent of completion before you hear the following week that Station 5 went down. What’s Station 5? Was it the new one or the old one? Why does it keep developing faults? What’s the long term plan for Station 5?
If digitisation and other national project failures are anything to go by, trusting the government, to be honest at ZESA is not a very wise thing for us to do. You know they are lying when their lips are moving. It’s almost certain they are lying when meaningless percentages such as those involving the US$294 million Hwange Project are involved.
These are the same people who failed to build a simple Solar Station in Gwanda for heaven’s sake! To this day there is no progress on that project which was supposed to take place in the full glare of the public. Now we are supposed to trust them with a project that’s hidden is some far away Thermal Powerstation which keeps breaking down even as it’s being expanded?
People want answers and so do I. The bulk of people feel like the old former enthusiastic and charismatic minister of Energy would be a better dude. I am inclined to agree. It’s not even clear to me or others how this man lost his post as Minister of Energy. Not long after he lost the post even the president praised him for a job well done at ZESA. I am sure there are better men than him for this post but he is the most engaging Minister in memory.
That’s why most people are crying for his return.