Mr. Joram Gumbo, Minister of Energy and Power Development in Zimbabwe, has been fired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as the South African nation goes through its worst blackout in three years.
TheCable reports that the minister had licensed over 30 companies to provide solar power to the country and that he had concluded plans to travel to Mozambique, a neighbouring country, to tie up an electricity supply deal.
But President Mnangagwa had other ideas as he relieved Gumbo of his job and replaced the embattled cabinet member with Fortune Chasi, the Deputy Minister for Transport and Infrastructural Development.
The state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), announced that there will be blackouts across the country for about eight hours daily.
ZETDC cited a drop in output at its largest hydro plant and ageing coal-fired generators for the load shedding and blackouts.
“The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand,” ZETDC said in a statement.
Reuters reports that the last time Zimbabwe experienced a blackout this serious was in 2016 after a devastating drought.
Zimbabwe is currently producing 969 megawatts (MW) daily against peak demand of 2,100 MW, as water levels lower and coal supplies to generating plants plummet.
Zimbabwe reportedly experienced low amounts of rainfall during the 2018-2019 rainy season, a situation that negatively affected hydro dams in the country.
But Nigeria does it differently
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, has been experiencing longer hours of blackout since independence in 1960, with no consequences whatsoever for officials in charge.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola recently told a blackened nation that there is little the government can do to improve the electricity situation because the power sector was auctioned to private sector players in 2013.
In public discourse after another, Fashola continues to pass the buck to the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
“There are problems without a doubt and we must deal with them. But let me remind you, all of the assets that the Ministry of Power used to control for power have been sold by the last administration before I came. And so if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest.
“The people who are operating the power sector, generation and distribution are now privately owned companies. I am here because I am concerned. If your telephone is not working, it is not the minister of communication that you go to. Let us be very clear.
“So for those of you who want to weaponise electricity, face the businessmen who have taken it up. Let us be honest. If your bank over-charges you interest, is it the minister of finance you go to? So let’s be clear. This is now a private business by Act of parliament 2005.
“My role is regulatory, oversight and policy, but I have a problem which is the fact that I can’t see a problem and turn my back, so I’m getting involved. So the people you should be talking to about transformers is not me, the ministry doesn’t supply transformers anymore", Fashola was quoted as saying in December of 2018.
The frequent collapses of a fragile grid
On Wednesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 9, 2019, Nigeria’s electricity grid collapsed for the umpteenth time, compounding the nation’s energy woes, subsuming an entire nation in swathes of darkness, crippling business activities and sending millions to gas stations to purchase petrol for noisy generators.
It would be the sixth time Nigeria’s power grid has collapsed in 2019.
The Nigeria Electricity System Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, announced this week that electricity generation stood at 2,441MW, dropping by 1,682MW from 4,129.2MW.
The system operator puts the nation’s installed generation capacity at 12,910.40MW; available capacity at 7,652.60MW; transmission wheeling capacity at 8,100MW; and the peak generation ever attained at 5,375MW.
TCN Managing Director, Usman Mohammed, says power has worsened in Nigeria because the Distribution Companies (DisCos) are turning back electricity.
“Since I became the MD of TCN, the system instability recorded in the last two days (Wednesday and Thursday) was the worst because there was no time that we had system instability where the restoration took a longer time like this.
“And the reason is – we had a high voltage caused by the fact that electricity load was being rejected by the Discos. And the load was not being picked because of weak distribution network. So that is the reason for that instability", Mohammed said.
President Muhammadu Buhari rode to power in 2015 partly on the back of a promise to improve power supply to homes and businesses.
But outages and erratic supply of power remain recurring themes across Africa's most populous nation.
Buhari won the February 23, 2019 presidential election and would kick off a second term in office on May 29, 2019.