Solar for Health project has saved lives, showing that ZESA has blood on its hands for its failures

Leonard Sengere Avatar
5-year solar tax break

The thing I hate about Zimbabwe is how it messes with your mind to think basic services are luxuries you should not even think about. Medicine at a hospital? Come back to earth o dreamer. Water out of a tap on demand? What do you think this is, Mansa Musa’s palace?

Being the good Zimbabweans that we are, we still murmur and complain but we also just find a way to make do without. We are like cockroaches sometimes, we find a way to survive.

Our perennial power challenges seem to have gotten worse but we have been slowly but surely coming up with solutions that don’t depend on ZETDC and the national grid. We had to look elsewhere, what with the country producing around 300MW against a demand of at least 1700MW.

Is it any wonder Zimbabweans are turning to solar? We found out that Zim is the biggest adopter of solar for backup electricity as a percentage of the total number of households. It gets even more impressive, 46% of Zim households have solar as their main source of electricity.

Zimbabwe’s solar potential

We often talk about how Zimbabwe is blessed and when it comes to solar potential, what do you know, we are blessed yet again. Zim enjoys about 8 hours of sunlight a day, or 3000 hours a year. We are one of the sunniest countries in the world, meaning we can turn to solar in a meaningful way.

If we are technical about it, look the blessing in the mouth,

Zimbabwe is a sunshine-rich country, enjoying a remarkable 7.5 hours of sunlight a day. Solar radiation varies from an average of about 16 MJ/m2/day in winter to about 22 MJ/m2/day in midsummer. Out of a total area of 390,750 km2, the country has 250,000 km2 that is suitable for concentrating solar power plants.

It should be stressed that we did not turn to solar by choice. It was because of the failings of the national power company. However, politicians being politicians, they could not not take credit for Zim adopting solar like this.

They now act as if, in their efforts to align this Southern African nation with the green initiative, they effected policies that led to the wide adoption of solar.

One massive implication of our power challenges

Now, we are reminded that the power challenges have not only made it hard to recover economically, but they have also cost lives.

Not every birth goes without complications. In some cases, intervening operations have to be carried out to save both the mother and the baby. Some of these procedures are impossible to carry out without electricity.

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Small to Medium Enterprises and Development says the maternity mortality rate in the country stood at 700 deaths to 100,000 births for a long time.

The reason for that high mortality rate? They say one of the major reasons is…

…unreliable, costly, and unsustainable electricity at the health facilities, negatively impacting on the quality of maternal health services offered.

Solar for health project

An inter-ministerial project was undertaken to at least deal with the electricity challenge. It involved getting as many rural and remote health centres as possible electricity. Some got connected to the national grid but we have been talking about how that source is unreliable.

That makes the ‘solar for health’ project the more exciting one. We don’t have exact numbers on the number of health centres that have benefitted from the program but what we have are figures showing the mortality rate crumbled.

In 2015, the maternity mortality rate had fallen to 137/100,000 live births and continued falling to 108/100,000 in 2022.

This is thanks to better access to electricity at more and more health centres. This is allowing practitioners at these centres to have access to online consultations with experts to guide them in complex procedures.

That is in addition to being able to use equipment like x-ray machines and being able to undertake theatrical operations. Not to mention the small matter of storing some medication which requires low temperatures on site.

From the above, I think we can all agree that we really cannot live in a world where health centres do not have access to electricity. Now, the truth is we cannot count on ZETDC to fix its problems. So, for the foreseeable future, the national grid is going to be unreliable.

Projects like the solar for health one are where we should be putting all our effort.

What do you think about this? We had no desire to be the leaders in solar adoption but necessity pushed us there. Should we embrace this and demand our government really open up the borders to anyone who would import solar equipment? I think so.

Also read:

46% of Zimbabwean electricity users have solar as main source

Zimbabwe’s unreliable electricity supply makes it the biggest adopter of solar systems in Africa

The best solar system to buy in Zimbabwe



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  1. Juno

    Solar is our best solution. They need to scrap import duties on all solar equipment, including the batteries. Especially since they found big deposits of lithium locally

    1. Leonard Sengere

      We have no option but to turn to solar. The govt has removed duty on most solar products but retains VAT for the most part. We need more than this. After all we are doing ZPC’s job, solving the electricity crisis.

    2. Sunchyme – Dario G

      Nice. Is Standards Association of Zimbabwe still operating with authority or do they just email their logo for the right price? They can make a contribution by certifying solar equipment for tax exemptions so we don’t end up flooded with trash.

      1. Leonard Sengere

        You don’t lie there. Most of the solar equipment flooding our country is of the Chinese-2-month-life-span variety. Don’t know what SAZ can do about it though as most of it is smuggled in.

      2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        You should also do due diligence, even absent an authority. The problem is we usually want that guy that can do it for half. Even if it’s Chinese and has a 25 year warranty from the supplier, a warranty is a warranty.

        TV Sales sells electronics with a manufacturers warranty of 2 years, but they only give you a 6 months warranty. So despite having a high quality, internationally certified product, you are in a bad position if it fails.

  2. D.K.

    When those who make decisions go for solar instead of putting effort on solving national power generation and distribution it sends a very strong message to both the locals and the foreign nationals and companies. Just like a home or company generator, a home or company solar system should be a backup for grid power. The sun is not always producing usable radiation all over the country at any hour of the day, and one needs a system which has enough batteries to go for 4 or 5 days without useful sunlight. With all that is going on, ZESA is a miracle company. How can a company produce and sell 200Megawatts instead of 2000Megawatts and still be on its feet, able to pay its workers on time every month, if it is not a miracle? What keeps it going? At what expense? Do those on top and our economists know that in the modern world, stable and reliable electricity supply has an effect on development? Local and foreign business people would rather start or move their businesses to countries that have stable and reliable electricity, and we keep losing out on development. Rather than going back to subsistence, we need to have efficient and effective utilities which supply be it electricity or water, to the majority of the people, with the aim to get these to all the people.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Indeed! 100%. Solar should be a backup, not the main source. It is the testament to just how terribly the national power company has failed that solar is more reliable than solar, which by nature is only available for a third of the day. What that means is that Zimbabweans have to shell out for higher capacity batteries that can store enough power to cover nights and a few consecutive cloudy days.

      About ZESA being a miracle company 😂. No argument there. They really have set this country back decades with their failures. You mentioned investors that have passed on Zim or moved operations elsewhere. We can only add those that have stayed/or come here but are only able to operate at a lower capacity than they otherwise would. How much of a hit is that to our production? It’s crazy.

  3. Unsatisfied citizen

    Aaah. Yes! More electricity for health workers to spend the whole day on YouTube taking advantage of wifi at their workplaces. I remember going to this other clinic in Harare with my brother who Was in critical condition and was ignored by the staff. Somehow they were too busy on their phones and I was reminded by them that I’m not their boss. All they do is complain about not getting high salaries. If you don’t like your job, you can just quit. The door is open. I hate people who have very impors8careers but don’t take them seriously

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Zimbabwe so ka. We have been in this ‘hanging by a thread’ state for so long that most people do not care about being model citizens. The sentiment is, the ship is going down, why bother playing the violin, this ain’t the Titanic.
      We have coined proverbs like ‘a goat feeds where it is tied down’ to normalise corruption and petty theft. The systems have failed us, the leadership has failed us but we don’t want to admit that we are worsening the situation.
      The issue of healthcare personnel being only good at complaining about their plight is a sad one. I understand your frustrations.

      1. Back in my day

        On a sort of related tangent, When a DJ I follow posted about missing the days of streetlights, someone replied achiti don’t your headlights work 😂 It actually turned into a little fight🤦🏿‍♂️

        That ‘hanging by a thread’ mentality has been the reality for generations to the point that someone will argue against basic things because all their life, they have never seen things done right

        1. Leonard Sengere

          My goodness 😂. Someone reminisces about working street lights and another counters that they really should have their own lighting solution. It’s sad really. We have come not to expect anything from our service providers. We are ridiculing people who point out that there is no garbage collection as if they are being boujee.
          You’re right, we adopted this outlook from our parents who dealt with the same terrible service we are dealing with today. It’s all we know.

  4. Pep Guardiola

    Exactly Zimbabweans we are cockroaches,Power problems you install personal solar panels,water problems you drilla personal borehole,Transport Problems you import your own exjap Honda fit and increase conjestion in the roads ,data problems you install unlimited wifi and put double passwords to protect yourself from neighbors 😂😂Until we learn to live as a community we will continue having problems as a country

    1. BaBhomba

      Very true,in Western countries people protest for Climate Change,Retirement age laws and because it affects everyone ,the advantage we have as Zimbabweans for now is we have lots of land and lesser population,ichasvika nguva yekuty borehole harichereke because water table is too low,conjestion gets worse because you cannot build your own private city and road for your family

    2. Leonard Sengere

      You have hit the nail on the head. We no longer understand what ‘community’ means. ‘Each to their own,’ is the motto now. It’s easier and quicker to solve for yourself in the short run than try to motivate and push everyone to join together and solve for the whole community. So, we just focus on ourselves. Each person that has somewhat solved one problem is less enthusiastic about mobilising to demand community reforms. This steals the voice from the masses. We are in trouble.

    3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      What you don’t realise is that, one less person on the grid is more power for those on it. One less Zinwa user, means better water pressure for those remaining on it. Those private ex-japs also give people lifts everyday. I don’t see why we vilify those who scrounged to find themselves a solution, people seem happier for us to all suffer together.

  5. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    Hopefully, everything is on the up and up. Every time there is a “noble” project, someone else is gluttonously eating from the trough. Just recently top government officials were supposed to get 14k USD 5Kva solar systems, more than double the market price for those systems.

    So if a person gets a tender to install solar at 100 clinics, they can easily make 1M USD in profit just by middlemaning.

  6. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    What you don’t realise is that, one less person on the grid is more power for those on it. One less Zinwa user, means better water pressure for those remaining on it. Those private ex-japs also give people lifts everyday. I don’t see why we vilify those who scrounged to find themselves a solution, people seem happier for us to all suffer together.

    1. Pep Guardiola

      That’s one way to see it,but people who install solar panels still use ZESA anyway ,2 : if you flood cars there will be conjestion eg Chitungwiza during peak hour literally everyday,in UK people ride bicycles and use subway trains because they don’t want to pay congestion when there is reliable public transport ,3: drilling boreholes reduces ZINWA users but strains the water table making us drill deeper and deeper we cause natural disasters eg Mexico City is now sinking and everyone with boreholes can’t use them since the water pressure beneath has bocome too high for pumps

  7. nhema

    I think it was going to be more real if talked with our friend China to great a battery plant since we have lithium

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