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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Seven degrees
July 9, 2011, 12:05 pm

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Winter crept in under the door this week, just when we thought it had
forgotten us. In twenty four hours the day time temperature plummeted from
the mid twenties to a bitter seven degrees Celsius and Zimbabwe shivered. As
the mist and wind swept in and swallowed my neighbourhood, the electricity
went off and plunged us into the cold and dark.

In my home town the electricity supplier, ZESA, said it was load shedding
when we phoned, even when we told them it was a fault. The problem was a
main overhead power cable which had woken the whole neighbourhood when it
broke at around five in the morning. Crackling, banging, flaring and
sparking, the cable had snapped in two places and then fell along and across
a small suburban road. It took a telephone cable down with it and finally
came to a rest on a neighbour's steel gate. What a mess it was and extremely
dangerous. After repeated calls to ZESA telling them there was a live cable
lying on a man's gate and along a few hundred metres of suburban road, they
finally arrived three hours later, at 8.30 in the morning. By lunch time the
cable was still lying across the tar road and ZESA had left a team of tree
cutters to remove branches that were touching the overhead cables. The usual
absurd and extremely frustrating conversation between residents and ZESA
workers wasn't long in coming.

'Why don't you come any do any maintenance on these lines anymore," we
asked.

'Aaah, we don't have money,' was the reply.

'But if you came and trimmed the trees every year, like you used to, the
cables wouldn't get weakened and break and it wouldn't lead to such
expensive repairs.'

There was no reply. It's been at least six years since ZESA have gone around
my neighbourhood clearing vegetation and brush from around their poles and
transformers or trimmed tree branches growing too close to the lines.
Someone pointed to the shoulder high dry grass and scrubby bush growing
right up to the ZESA switching box. Last year a bush fire in exactly this
spot had caused an explosion in the box, the melted green paint proof of the
near tragedy that we had all rushed to avert, extinguishing flames with
branches and sacks.

Just a few metres away the branches of a large eucalyptus tree blowing and
swaying in between the overhead power cables were easily visible.

'While you've got the workers and the ladders here, will you at least trim
the eucalyptus branches,' we asked.  

'Another time,' came the reply. It's exactly the same response they gave us
when we made the same request about the same tree a year ago.

That response was about as comforting as the mid year statement made by the
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Power Company a few days ago. Mr Maasdorp said :
"the only way to compensate for a sub-economic tariff is to cut back on
maintenance and ongoing refurbishment. This is clearly not sustainable and
if the situation is not addressed urgently, the lights you have from time to
time today will go out tomorrow!"

Not mentioned in the Chairman's public mid year statement was the recent
report in The Zimbabwean newspaper that farmers on seized farms owed ZESA
eighty million US dollars in unpaid bills and wanted government to give them
more financial support. While they're at it, I'm sure a couple of million
urban residents won't mind government paying their electricity bills either!

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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