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


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Load shedding
August 28, 2010, 5:52 pm

 

 

Dear Family and Friends,

We’ve had an electricity crisis of major proportions this past week which has bought the routines of everyday life to a standstill. Businesses without computers, offices unable to access records, machines that cannot be operated and of course, no electricity means no water which makes things even harder still. Repeated calls to electricity supplier ZESA have yielded nothing: no explanation, apology or excuses just two little words spat contemptuously at you for daring to ask: ‘load shedding’ they say. 12, 15, 18 and even 22 hours a day we’ve been subjected to ‘load shedding’ at a time when the country is desperate for business, production and growth. One man home businesses have come to a complete standstill. Small businesses without the means to provide their own electricity are complaining that they’ve been losing about five hundred dollars a day. Bigger businesses estimate lost income of around five thousand dollars a day, not to mention employees sitting around doing nothing who will all have to be paid at the end of the month. Employees who came to work in the morning without having had a proper meal and will go home to much the same: a smoky fire outside and no water to bath or wash with.

Every outlet that can afford to run them, have resorted to generators. In all shapes and sizes the machines clutter pavements and alleyways and pedestrians have become adept at picking a safe path through the wires and conducting their business over the clattering, thumping and roaring of the engines. The power cuts have become so ridiculous this week that even the petrol stations have resorted to using generators to pump fuel into customers’ vehicles. It’s a slow process if you happen to be in a car though because there is a steady line of people on foot jumping the queue as they wait to fill plastic bottles with a litre or two of petrol for generators.

Craziest of all about this week’s non existent electricity is the sure and certain knowledge that come the end of the month our electricity bills will be as high as they always are. First world bills for fourth world service, or even no service at all.

The knock on effects of these extended power cuts is having a devastating impact on the environment. From early in the morning to last thing in the evening the sound of wood chopping is all around. Emerging from bush and woodland all the time is a steady stream of women carrying huge piles of newly cut wood on their heads. Some is for their own use but more is for sale, a small bundle of half a dozen pieces of indigenous wood costing five US dollars – enough to cook perhaps two or three meals.

Despite it all, Zimbabweans really have become masters of ingenuity when faced with adversity so now, if you know where to go and have a few dollars, you can have a haircut or charge your cell phone on someone’s generator. What a shame it is that ZESA aren’t blessed with a similar ingenuity. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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