A few hours after the Government had relaxed the Covid-19 lockdown on Monday, allowing businesses to operate more freely but upholding health standards, electricity went off in central Bulawayo.
Since Monday, Zesa technicians have been battling to restore electricity to a large part of the city centre and residential areas such as Suburbs and Ilanda. By late last night they had not succeeded.
This has been a big setback for businesses that were happy that the restrictions had been eased.
Four days without electricity for businesses that had largely not been running for two months due to the lockdown has been too much for some which have had to pull up the shutters once again. Others are now running on diesel generators or liquefied petroleum gas, both of which are very expensive alternatives.
Mr Martin Ndlovu, a manager at Billy’s Fry and Braai Restaurant told us yesterday:
“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. 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.”
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) national deputy president Mr Golden Muhoni is also unhappy at the failure by Zesa to fix the problem.
“It is a very serious issue and this power problem is happening just after relaxation of lockdown thus facilitating the opening of the economic,” he said. “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 of generators which use fuel to function in addition to paying electricity bills.”
Messrs Ndlovu and Muhoni’s disappointment is justifiable. They need an answer from Zesa. Actually, they need much more than an answer. They need electricity back.
The national lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 has been running for the past 11 months now.
It was relaxed towards the end of last year after it was instituted in March of that year, but was tightened in January this year. It has worked in preventing a faster spread of the infection.
It, however, has dealt a heavy blow on businesses and livelihoods. Many were forced to close as they don’t fall under the essential services industry.
A number of them made immense losses from which they may never emerge, which means we may not see some brands running again.
Now, those in parts of Bulawayo that have been without electricity since Monday have had a tough time.
We ask Zesa to demonstrate their worth by fixing the problem, reconnect the businesses so that they can operate and be able to recover from the adverse impact of the Covid-19 lockdown.