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Union says corruption main cause of Zimbabwe’s power cuts

31 July, 2019Power cuts of up to 18 hours are common in Zimbabwe as the country goes through another economic crisis. Corruption and looting are rife at state-owned companies like the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), as revealed by the country’s auditor general report for 2018. 

The level of corruption is so high that services have been crippled. In the few factories that remain open, thousands of jobs are being lost as there is no power to run machinery and equipment. The power utility is also unable to service its over US $20 million debt to South Africa’s Eskom, which has been supplying the country with power.

The Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, says corruption has been going on for many years. Said Martin Chikuni, general secretary of ZEWU:

“The corruption can be traced to the time when the power utility was broken into five so-called strategic business units. The semi-autonomous entities, ZESA Holdings, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company, Zimbabwe Power Company, Powertel and ZESA Enterprises seem to have been created to syphon money from the power utility.”

For instance, millions of dollars were spent on unsuitable meters imported from India and money was paid to companies that never delivered.  Equipment at the power stations is old and not regularly maintained.

According to ZEWU, the management at ZESA has neither experience nor expertise on energy issues and failed to plan for the expansion of power production. Further, executives are overpaid, and funds meant for operations diverted to other issues. ZEWU argues that the five entities should be brought back into one. With no research done on renewable energy, the country continues to rely on hydro and thermal energy sources, says the union.

The power utility also ignores collective bargaining agreements it signed with unions and is being challenged for unfair labour practices in the courts. The utility is losing workers with critical skills because of the violations of workers’ rights and failure to pay living wages.

Paule-France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said:

“It is shocking that power cuts can last for more than 18 hours. We call upon the Ministry of Energy and Power Development to find solutions to deal with the energy crisis in Zimbabwe, and for ZESA to respect the collective agreements and workers’ rights.”

ZEWU is part of the Sub Saharan Africa Energy Network, which is campaigning for sustainable energy that includes energy mix and Just Transition policies. The network is made up of 17 IndustriALL affiliates from 13 countries.