Power cuts cripple informal sector

The Chronicle

Pride Mahlangu, Business Reporter
THE incessant power cuts being experienced across the country have hit the informal sector hardest with players now spending long hours or days without production.

The power utility, Zesa, is implementing a tight load shedding regime that has seen some places going for up to 15 hours without power. This is because of subdued power generation at the country’s main stations in Hwange and Kariba.

Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs chairperson, Mr Energy Majazi, said power cuts were now threatening livelihoods of their members as production has automatically come down.

“We have been hit hard my brother. This is where we get our day to day fares for transport and our children who go to school. We are living from hand to mouth and now we are just like dogs that eat once a day in the evening. The situation is critical because of these power cuts,” he said.

“All businesses are affected including brick moulders because there is water rationing. We can say 95 percent of the people in the informal sector are affected except the ones doing buying and selling from outside.”

Mr Majazi said their members in the manufacturing sector, particularly those in the furniture and clothing sectors, were the worst affected as they used electric machinery.

Given the economic challenges, he said, investing in solar and generators was also a mammoth task.

Mr Majazi said SMEs were not happy with the situation as they will still be required to pay taxes to Government and rentals to property owners despite failure to produce due to power cuts.

The secretary general of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Mr Wisborn Malaya, also implored Government to speed up measures to improve power generation and supply.

“As Government is addressing the issue of electricity generation, may they speed up the process of addressing the supply side because electricity is very key to production,” said Mr Malaya.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing load shedding outside the official schedule owing to a technical fault at Hwange power station and reduced electricity production due to low water levels at Kariba. However, Zesa has pledged to add 160MW of electricity to the national grid this week following the successful restoration of unit 5 at Hwange Power Station.

The power utility has been implementing stage two of load shedding, mainly in residential areas where the informal sector is based. Informal business operators have also said they were losing customers because of unstable load shedding timetables.

“Power cuts are no longer following the given schedule.

They can cut power anytime which inconveniences our business. For instance yesterday I ended up losing many customers when power was unexpectedly cut,” said Mr Mbongeni Moyo, who operates a barber shop.

A game shop owner, who declined to be identified, also said power cuts had reduced his profits.

With low levels of investment in the private sector and renewable energy projects, Zesa remains the sole generator and supplier of electricity in the country.

Zimbabwe has a higher proportion of informal sector players with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicating, in one of its reports, that more 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s economy is informal.

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