By Mashudu Netsianda and Boitumelo Makhurane
Businesses in Bulawayo are counting losses following a five-day blackout in parts of the city centre due to an electrical fault at a Zesa substation in Belmont industrial area.
The fault has also caused a blackout in residential areas such as Suburbs, Woodlands and some parts of Ilanda.
Zesa technicians have since Monday been battling to restore power to the affected sections. Some businesses have been forced to shut down, only days after they reopened when the Government relaxed the lockdown on Monday.
Others have resorted to diesel generators and gas as alternatives.
Retail shops, restaurants and informal business operators who spoke to Chronicle yesterday said they have been adversely affected by the power outage.
Mr Martin Ndlovu, a manager at Billy’s Fry and Braai Restaurant, said they are now forced to use a generator which consumes 60 litres of diesel daily.
“The situation has forced us to resort to using a generator which requires about 60 litres of fuel every day, which is unsustainable. In some cases, we end up throwing away some perishable products such as meat, vegetables and dairy foods because our generator does not operate during the night,” he said.
“We used about US$100 daily to fuel the generator because we have to take a risk as we do not want to lose our customers.”
Mr Wayne Cooke who operates a veterinary company said the blackout has forced them to suspend procurement of new stock of animal vaccines, which require a cold chain.
“We sell vaccines for livestock and they are supposed be kept at a temperature of between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius and this has forced us to destock the vaccines to avoid incurring losses. We are forced to buy at least 8 litres of diesel every day to power our generator as well as ice to keep the vaccines under the low temperatures,” he said.
“Most farmers rely on vaccines for their livestock since we are in the rainy season and animals need to be vaccinated to control the spread of diseases. Due to the power blackout, we are failing to supply our customers with enough vaccines.”
Ms Charity Mukuze who operates a hair salon in the city centre said:
“We were so happy after the lockdown was relaxed as we expected to be back in business, but sadly the power blackout that we have been experiencing since Monday has left us counting losses. We use hair dryers and geyser for hot water and these require electricity. We have been sitting for the past four days since there is no electricity and our customers are going to other hair salons.”
Mr Eric Zhou who operates an internet cafe said he failed to open his shop because of the power outage.
“I closed the internet cafe as we do not have power since Monday evening and this has affected my business and my customers as well, especially university students who are set to reopen for their examinations soon,” he said.
Bulawayo economic analyst Mr Morris Mpala said the power outage has affected trade as most businesses are now relying on digital transactions.
“Everything is now dependent on you having power supply, especially in this era of digitisation and electronic transactions. The power challenges currently experienced in parts of the city centre have affected trade,” he said.
“Generally, power is business and you can’t transact using the point-of-sale machines, which means you can’t trade without power. What is even more worrying is that people are just coming from the lockdown and trying to put their house in order so that they start business.”
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) national deputy president Mr Golden Muhoni said:
“It is a very serious issue and this power problem is happening just after relaxation of lockdown thus facilitating the opening of the economic. The bulk of the city centre has no power and this is serious inefficiency coming from Zesa because businesses have lost out in terms of money, production time.
“Imagine how much money has been lost by small bakeries by not baking. Business operators are now forced to add more costs to their business through the use generators which uses fuel to function in addition to paying electricity bills.”
Zesa acting general manager for the Western Region Engineer Lloyd Jaji said that they are working flat out to rectify the problem. The Chronicle