Energy minister Soda Zhemu grilled over power crisis

By Staff Reporter

HARARE – Energy and Power Development minister Soda Zhemu was Wednesday taken to task by legislators over mismanagement of the country’s power supply situation with opposition MP Charlton Hwende taking it further to demand his sacking.

Hwende’s CCC counterpart Willias Madzimure also called the minister to explain why President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed on his 2018 election campaign promises to glut the entire nation with endless energy.

Zimbabwe is experiencing probably its worst power crisis since Mnangagwa took over 2017 with consumers going for up to 18 hours a day without the critical resource.

Parliament of Zimbabwe.

Zhemu on Wednesday brought a ministerial statement to try and clarify the situation on the ground, coupled with measures being placed by government to remedy the crisis.

But that did not spare the minister the missiles by MPs across the political divide who felt government allowed the country’s recurrent energy crisis to drag with no solutions in place while putting the lives and economic prospects of the nation in jeopardy.

In his statement, Zhemu repeated the familiar narrative that water levels at Kariba Dam have diminished due to reduced water inflows caused by the poor 2021-2022 rain season with power generation dropping to between 250 to 300 megawatts.

“This effectively resulted in loss of about 300 megawatts capacity on our grid, increasing our power deficit to over 500 megawatts,” he said.

Zhemu also said the country’s current power supply situation stood at 800MW with Hwange generating up to 400MW, Kariba 300MW and 30 MW from the small thermals.

Independent power producers are contributing a total of 56MW to make up for the 800MW while imports from Eskom of South Africa, Mozambique’s HCB and EDM as well as Zambia’s ZESCO totalled 300MW.

Zhemu outlined a slew of measures tailored to ramp up production and restore normalcy in the country’s power supply situation.

These include increasing imports to 500MW, increasing generation at Hwange Power Station, small thermal power stations, and independent power producers, among other remedial measures.

Legislators however took turns to harangue the minister for poor management of a critical national resource.

David Tekeshe asked the minister why load shedding targeted the prime hours of business during the day while being restored late at night when it is least needed.

Elias Musakwa asked why Zimbabwe’s power generation situation was worse than that of Zambia despite the neighbours both sharing Kariba dam as a source of power.

Hwende demanded the return of Fortune Chasi as minister in place of Zhemu whom he said was incompetent.

“…It is my request as Parliament that if you can kindly relay communication to His Excellency the President, Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa to say the Minister has failed…” Hwende said.

“The Minister was given a task and he failed.

“…What it means is that he does not know anything with regard to electricity. We kindly ask you to return the Minister who was there before him. We are pretty much sure that he is very good in that area…people in Kuwadzana have no electricity. The Minister has failed in his job.”

Madzimure took it to Mnangagwa.

“I would like to comment on the ruling party’s manifesto which relates and assured everyone that we would have access to electricity in five years…what happened to the adage, Magetsi ngwee?” he said.

Madzimure also protested the reinstatement of ZESA Executive Chairman Sydney Gata whom he said has also failed in his job.

In his response, Zhemu blamed Covid-19 outbreak for scuttling Mnangagwa’s plans to supply power to the whole nation.

“We did not fall far from the target. The gestation period from the onset of project up to completion requires a lot of years. It so happened that during the years that we were planning, we had not foreseen that for one and half years, there will be no work due to the effects of COVID. I believe that we are not way off the mark in terms of the completion of this particular power station,” he said.

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