World News

Zimbabwe utility seeks to allay power cut fears

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s state power utility sought to allay fears on Thursday of wide power cuts, saying households would not automatically see daily power outages but would nevertheless not be guaranteed supplies during the crucial winter cropping season.

ZESA Holdings, which on Wednesday warned of 20-hour daily power cuts to homes across the country, on Thursday said the cuts would be subject to demand from wheat farmers who need electricity to irrigate their crops.

“Households would not be cut for 20 hours but the load-shedding would be applied mainly during peak periods on a rotational basis and if supplies are adequate there would be no power cuts,” Edward Rugoyi, a senior ZESA official, told the state-owned Herald newspaper on Thursday.

A Zimbabwe government notice published on Wednesday announced the new power cut programme as the struggling utility battles to shift supplies to irrigate the winter wheat crop amid looming food shortages.

The southern African country is experiencing frequent power cuts due to the declining capacity of its ageing power plants and crunch shortages of foreign exchange which have hit imports.

“ZESA undertakes to exempt wheat farming areas from load-shedding except during the four-hour window period from 1700 hours to 2100 hours when the quantum of the shortfall is such that no load can be exempted from load-shedding,” Rugoyi said.

“However, under emergency conditions or extreme supply shortfall situations, Zesa will not be in a position to guarantee supply to any customer at any given time,” he added.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deep economic crisis and requires $2 billion for new equipment and to expand production at the country’s two main power plants.

Regular power outages have hit industrial production and contributed to the economic crisis and escalating political tensions.