Bigwigs shielded from power cuts....Chefs get free solar systems

Gloria Magombo

At least 100 top government officials, including service chiefs, are having solar panels installed at their homes at the taxpayers’ expense to cushion them and their families from the inconveniences of rolling electricity outages.

Senior government sources said a local company (name supplied) has been contracted to install a 5 kilovolt (Kva) solar system at a cost of US$ 14 000 each for top chefs who include ministers, senior government officials, commissioners and army generals. This publication established that a full package of the 5 Kva solar system, which consists of accessories and labour, costs between US$3 000 and US$5 000 but government will be paying US$14 000 for the same service — a 200% inflated price.

Zimbabweans are enduring punishing power outages lasting at least 18 hours every day.

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) last month ordered the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) to cut electricity generation output at Kariba South hydro power station to 300 megawatts from 600 MW due to low water levels at Kariba Dam.

The Hwange Power station, with an installed capacity of 920 MW, is not generating enough, leaving a huge shortfall and plunging the country into total darkness.

As Zimbabweans are condemned to long hours of darkness, The Standard heard that government is moving with speed to ensure that bigwigs and their families are not inconvenienced.

Energy ministry permanent secretary Gloria Magombo confirmed the development when contacted for comment yesterday, but said the project was coordinated by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

“This is a project that is being managed by the PSC,” Magombo said.

“As the ministry of Energy and Power Development, we are just providing technical support and consultancy.

“As for further details, we are not aware.

“However, I understand that government has a solar power plan, which will benefit not only civil servants' but even ordinary people and other public institutions.”

PSC secretary Tsitsi Choruma’s number was not reachable yesterday when efforts were made to contact her for  a comment.

Public Service minister Paul Mavima’s number was also not reachable.

Yesterday, trade unions blasted government for taking taxpayers' money to fund the lifestyles of top chefs.

“The issue of electricity is affecting everyone and all citizens are equal according to the supreme law of the land,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) secretary general Japhet Moyo said.

 “Those who pay the tax are in darkness for over 19 hours while some are cushioned from the pain of the power struggles.  Citizens should definitely challenge this.

“The senior public servants should bear the same challenges faced by every other citizen.

“That will push them as policy makers to address the problem.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently said the government had come up with schemes to give civil servants access to solar energy.

“In government, we are already incorporating solar systems in packages which public servants enjoy,” Mnangagwa wrote in a state-controlled weekly.

“Such employer-assisted interventions  across the sectors will see us speedily migrating more households to solar.”

Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Union’s Goodwill Taderera said they were not aware of the proposed solar schemes for civil servants.

“We know nothing about the solar scheme, but based on past experience, those at the top are the ones benefiting while the rest of the civil servants are just being used as a scapegoat,” Taderera said.

“Government has pledged several non-monetary incentives to its workers, but nothing has been implemented.

“The solar installation pledge for civil servants is just empty talk.

“Government has no capacity to install solar systems for every civil servant. How can it manage to do so when it has been failing to improve salaries?”

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