Power deficit chokes informal sector in Zimbabwe


Power cuts have had an adverse effect on the informal sector

MASVINGO — Jefta Moyo leapt out of his bed at the noise of children shouting in celebration: “Magetsi adzoka! Magetsi adzoka!”
Magetsi Adzoka is common lingo to mean power supplies have been restored.
The night had been dark, but suddenly, at around 22:00 hours on a Saturday, it brightened.
The country’s power utility had restored supplies to Mucheke, a high density suburb in Masvingo, Zimbabwe’s first modern urban settlement.
The children were jovial, and so were the adults.
Immediately, the buzzing sound of grinding mills broke the silence of the night. Both the young and old headed for the mills to grind their grain for mealie-meal.
Moyo, who runs a welding shop at Mucheke Bus Terminus, furiously cycles to his workshop to catch up for lost time and money.
“When power is restored, that means I can start working, no matter the time,” he said.
For more than a month now, power cuts lasting for almost the entire day have dogged the Masvingo community and others across the country.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company has published a countrywide load shedding schedule that would see Masvingo being switched off on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 05:00 hours to 22:00 hours.
To survive, entrepreneurs like Moyo have had to adjust their working hours to suit the prevailing tight power supply situation.
“I have to work anytime, whenever power supplies resume to meet my targets. I have to wake up this late, as odd as it may be,” he said, putting on his wielding goggles.
Because of the tight power supply regime, people have jokingly twisted the acronym ZESA, which is the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, the group that owns the power generation and supply subsidiaries, to “Zimbabwe Electricity Sometimes Available”.
“My business has been greatly affected by the power shortages. Using a generator will reduce the already slim profit margin. It would be tantamount to doing community service; so I have no choice but to rely on electricity,” says Moyo.
With many industries having either downsized, closed, or both, the vibrant informal sector had provided hope for the many unemployed Zimbabweans until the recent drastic drop in electricity power supplies following a massive reduction in power generation capacity at Kariba owing to depleted water supplies at Kariba Dam due to a devastating drought that affected southern Africa following a poor rainfall season.