Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zim power crisis sparks concern

Zim power crisis sparks concern

28 SEP 2012 11:43 – TAWANDA KAROMBO

As usage outstrips supply, electricity outages are hobbling the country’s 
corporate sector, writes Tawanda Karombo.

Zimbabwe is pinning its hopes on measures such as a Chinese-funded power 
plant to boost the country’s electricity generation capacity and offset a 
crippling energy supply situation.

The shortfall has led to escalating operational costs for several companies, 
many of which have been forced to resort to high-voltage diesel generators 
during extended power outages. The situation has been further compounded by 
rising consumption, which has in recent years outstripped supply.

The state power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), 
has instituted load-shedding to manage the growing supply-demand mismatch. 
This has led to suppressed production capacity for Zimbabwe’s corporate 
sector, with industry, manufacturing and mining companies being the most 

A recent research report on Zimbabwe’s electricity crisis by Business 
Monitor International (BMI) noted: “Zimbabwe is in the midst of an energy 
crisis. With peak energy consumption requirements of 2 200MW and domestic 
generating capacity of around 1300MW, outages are commonplace in the 

Tafadzwa Manyara, a local engineer, said that Zimbabwe “needs close to 2 
500MW, yet we are generating less than 1 500MW”. Analysts blame the power 
utility for the country’s electricity supply woes, but Zesa counters that 
corporate and individual consumers are not paying their bills. Powerful 
individuals, among them high-ranking government officials, are said to owe 
Zesa money.

Various initiatives are now underway to try to boost Zimbabwe’s electricity 
generation capacity. Among these are plans by a Chinese company, the 
Guangdong Bureau of Coal Geology, to invest about $3.5billion to fund the 
construction of a 1200MW thermal power plant.

Indigenisation policy
Chinese investors receive special concessions from President Robert Mugabe’s 
government and sources say they will not be required to cede a 51% majority 
shareholding to locals under the government’s controversial indigenisation 
policy. Other foreign investors are buckling under government pressure to 
cede majority stakes to black Zimbabwean groups or risk being kicked out of 
the country without compensation.

Platinum miner Zimplats has had to advance a $25million loan facility to 
Zesa. The power company has used the money to reduce arrears it owes to 
Mozambique’s Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa, enabling the resumption of 
electricity imports. In return, Zimplats will receive guaranteed power 
supplies for the next three years.

Other mining companies are reportedly paying more for guaranteed electricity 
supplies. However, most businesses in Zimbabwe have to deal with the regular 
power outages.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said that Zimbabwe is negotiating a 
$350million loan to expand the Kariba South power station to provide an 
additional 300MW of electricity.

Other reports suggested that a French investment consortium had been granted 
a licence to build a 2000MW thermal power plant in a deal reportedly worth 
about $3billion. Zimbabwe also has vast coal resources that could help to 
generate more power to offset the supply gap.

Engineer Manyara said the country needs to “invest in power generation” and 
“allow private players in the power generation field”. He said there was 
also a need for a “good revenue collection strategy, like prepaid meters” 
and urged more usage of other energy sources such as natural gases, solar 
power, wind power and uranium.

Johannes Kwangwari, an economic analyst, said that additional operational 
costs incurred by companies running generators were forcing them to raise 
the prices of goods and commodities. “The companies have to recover their 
costs, and the ultimate impact will be on inflation and price distortions,” 
he said.

Researchers at BMI, however, said that Zimbabwe’s overall power generation 
will increase by an annual average of 12.6% between now and 2016, to reach 
16.23 terawatt hours. “The biggest contributor to this increase will be 
coal-fired power generation, which is to increase by an annual average of 
22.8% over this period” because of expansion at the Hwange thermal power 

“Hydropower generation is due to increase by a much more modest 3% per 
annum, despite increased capacity planned for the Kariba South hydroelectric 
plant and a new plant planned on the Gairezi River. However, this growth in 
energy provision will not be enough to grant Zimbabwe energy 
self-sufficiency,” the report noted. 


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