Zimbabwe faces lengthy power outages after surge hits plants

Rozvodòa Varín

Zimbabwe faces prolonged power outages after a surge in electricity imports from neighboring South Africa overloaded its network and caused generating plants to fail, Energy Minister Soda Zhemu said.

The surge caused a nationwide blackout in the early hours of Monday, as it affected output at the Kariba hydropower plant and the coal-fired Hwange facility, Zhemu said by phone from the capital, Harare.

Generation has since been restored at Kariba and partially at plants in Hwange and Harare. Output at Hwange, the country’s biggest coal-fired facility, is at 85 megawatts, out of its installed capacity of 920 megawatts.

“Demand is outweighing internal power-generation capacity,” Zhemu said.

Kariba produces 1 018 megawatts of electricity, compared with national consumption of about 2 000 megawatts, according to the Zimbabwe Power Co.’s website. Zimbabwe doesn’t produce enough of its own power and relies on imports from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique to meet demand.

In parts of the city center in Harare on Monday, businesses were using diesel generators to run their operations. The second largest city of Bulawayo said Tuesday there was a possibility of water cuts being rolled out across the city.

“The water supply interruptions are due to the intermittent power supply being experienced citywide,” Christopher Dube, the town clerk, said in an emailed statement. Water pump stations have not received power supply since Monday evening, he said.

“This has negatively affected treatment of water, as well as pumping of both raw and clear water,” Dube said.

Eskom didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.