Zim pleads with SA to help keep lights on

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) owes Eskom $23 million, a debt that was reduced by almost a third when it made a delayed payment of $10 million amid much pressure from South Africa’s power utility.

And yet despite the parlous state of Zesa’s finances, Zimbabwe has pleaded for leniency from Eskom, fearing that its strained power supply – down to about eight hours a day – could dwindle even further.

Battling under escalating food and fuel shortages, brought on by a ban against foreign exchange and the reintroduction of a local currency unit that is fast sparking levels of hyper-inflation seen a few years ago, Zimbabwean residents have to make do with a few hours of electricity on a daily basis.

An employee from Now Media, the holding company of FTW Online, was in Zimbabwe last weekend and confirmed that the power came on around 11pm and went off at about 4am.

Apart from the impact of poor power supply on households, Zimbabwe’s mining industry - which generates around two thirds of the country’s earnings - is reportedly on the verge of drastic output reduction.

So when President Emmerson Mnangagwa saw his South African counterpart in Niamey, the capital of Niger, where African heads of state are gathered for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area, he used the opportunity to plead with Ramaphosa to stop Eskom from flicking Zesa’s switch to “off”.

But with debt of R440 billion that is fast spiking from interest alone, Eskom has stated that it can’t sell much electricity at the moment because of capacity constraints caused by its own dire finances, let alone feeding power to neighbouring cash-strapped utilities.

Meanwhile it appears that regular water shortages experienced in Harare are a direct result of Zesa not being able to pump water to the country’s capital.

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