On his return from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Mugabe told his supporters gathered at the Harare International Airport to receive him, that Energy and Power Development minister Samuel Undenge should not be blamed for the 18-hour power cuts Zimbabweans have to endure every day.
He said Undenge was not a “generator”, before blaming drought for low water levels at Kariba Dam — the main source of electricity for Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s feeble and rather arrogant excuse for the power cuts coincided with reports that former Zambian Acting President Guy Scott had blamed his country for the depletion of the Kariba Dam water levels.
Scott’s statements contradicts Mugabe’s assertion that drought is to blame for the crisis.
As we report today, Zimbabwe and Zambia ignored advice from the Zambezi Water Authority issued as early as February this year to use the Kariba Dam water sparingly.
According to Scott, poor oversight saw the two countries driving water levels down to 29% of capacity last month from 70% last year.
He explained that a 360 megawatt (MW) hydropower expansion by Zambia, which increased the generating capacity by 50%, worsened the situation.
The Zambezi River Authority regulates Kariba Dam and is run by the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments.
The authority allocates the two countries water for hydro-power and as we report elsewhere, it gave the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and Zambia’s power utility Zeco ample time to mitigate against the crisis.
However, the two utilities sat on their laurels until disaster struck. Zesa has reduced the Kariba Hydropower station’s generating capacity to a meagre 475MW from the usual 750MW.
The situation has been worsened by the poor performance of the Hwange, Bulawayo and Munyati thermal power stations that are operating well below capacity.
Zesa says the thermal power stations and Kariba only produce 984 MW against the demand of 2 000MW and electricity imports are virtually non-existent because of the parlous state of the economy.
The impact on the economy is yet to be told. Companies would have to reduce their capacity utilisation, or resort to more expensive alternatives such as generators.
Mugabe’s solution to this fresh barrier to doing business in Zimbabwe was that companies should operate at night. He also advised that the country should wait for the rains.
If Zimbabwe had a responsible and caring government, Undenge would have handed his resignation letter to Mugabe as he arrived at the airport, but there is no such precedent in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has a long history of rewarding failure and his thoughtless defence of Undenge was expected.
He does not care that Undenge’s ministry had ample time to put in place measures to mitigate against the reduced capacity of the Kariba station.
A minister who lacks foresight and cannot plan ahead should not be allowed anywhere near a strategic ministry like that of Energy.
The government only started scrambling around for solutions recently, including the proposal to ban electric geysers and promoting the use of solar energy.
Mugabe’s government — in power for 35 years — has failed to build any new power stations to cater for the growing population.
Existing power stations were built during the colonial era, yet Zimbabwe has the potential to generate excess electricity.
The government revealed this week that at least 60% of the population has no access to electricity and this is unacceptable. Mugabe should stop defending non-performers and give Zimbabweans the leadership they deserve.