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Farmers fume over power outages

Agriculture
Wheat

FARMERS across the country have accused power utility Zesa of “sabotaging” their operations by switching them off over non-payment.

The farmers accused the State power utility of deliberately switching them off, and failing to understand that they were still to be paid by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for grain deliveries.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of rolling power cuts which are likely to worsen after Zesa was ordered to shut down its Kariba South Power Station until January next year, having exceeded its water allocation.

In June this year, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management held a public hearing on the operations of Zesa and was told that the winter crop, especially wheat, was a complete write-off in some parts of the country because Zesa had failed to supply power.

Farmers told Newsday Farming that Zesa has been switching off debtors, thus affecting irrigation programmes.

“It’s a very painful situation because at the moment, very few farmers have been paid by the Grain Marketing Board for our wheat crop.

“Zinwa has also been giving us problems, so we are in a very difficult situation.  We understand obviously the money situation in Zimbabwe and with Zesa and Zinwa being government institutions. They have been doing this for a while and we called up the Minister of Agriculture, Anxious Masuka. We had a meeting at Chinyemba Farm and he said he had spoken to (Energy) minister (Zhemu) Soda and we were assured that productive farmers will not be switched off because it’s a form of sabotage,” one farmer revealed.

NewsDay Farming has seen messages from one of the farmers’ WhatsApp groups narrating some of the electricity challenges they were experiencing countrywide.

“Three days now, still no power. Trying to germinate crops please! Any indication when we will have power back at Mufenje Farm? Power gone again. Two and a half hours only. Please Zesa, we cannot farm like this,” said one disgruntled farmer in the group.

“Please assist us. We still have no power and have been greeted with a pledge to assist three days ago and silence since then.”

Another farmer wrote: “Still no Zesa going on seven days now.”

“Last night we were powered for less than an hour. I can’t call that being powered. 45 minutes. You can’t even pump water for the whole farm in 45 minutes. We were not powered to be honest. 45 minutes for sure,” yet another farmer wrote.

Other chats indicated that many farms, including Bloomfield, Dericos, Iron Duke and surrounding areas had not received power recently

“Would you kindly assist so that we can pursue our daily activity please? Zesa guys, stop playing illicit games with us. We need power like yesterday. You need to stop it please,” another upset farmer complained.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Paul Zakariya said they were in talks with Energy ministry officials over the power outages.

“I haven’t heard of anywhere where there is no Zesa at the moment, but if that is the case, it is a very sad development. We are in the middle of talks with the Ministry of Energy and hope things will go back to order soon.

“We need to come together and find a solution so that at the end of the day, we do not point fingers,” he said.

Zesa Holdings spokesperson George Manyaya said the situation had affected the whole nation, citing the current low water levels in Kariba Dam.

“Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company would like to advise its customers that it is experiencing depressed electricity generation and as a result there is increased pressure on the grid,” he said in a statement.

“Customers are, therefore, advised to use electricity sparingly and switch off all electrical appliances during the outages to minimise the risk of possible damage to these appliances.”

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