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Power cuts force night-time productivity in Zimbabwe3 minutes read

Zimbabwe introduced rotational power cuts forcing many to do their ironing or cooking in the dead of night

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Zimbabwe power cuts

Zimbabwe’s worsening electricity shortages mean power is often only available for a few hours in the middle of the night – forcing furniture maker Richard Benhura to start work at 11:00 pm. It is just one aspect of the country’s dire economic difficulties as official inflation nears 100 per cent and supplies of daily essentials such as bread and petrol regularly run short.

“If you want to work, you have to be here overnight and start when the electricity comes on until it goes off around 4:00 am,” Benhura, 32, narrated as he made some wooden backrests for chairs. At the open-air Glen View furniture market in Harare, Benhura welds steel frames for chairs and grinds off rough edges in the darkness, and then returns to do his manual woodwork in the daylight.

Zimbabwe – where the economy has recently lurched into a fresh crisis – introduced rotational power cuts of up to 19 hours a day earlier this year, forcing many to do their ironing or cooking in the dead of night. For Eugenia Chiwashira, a resident of the poor Harare suburb of Mbare, the outages are a grim burden.

The mother of three in her 40s says she can barely afford to feed her family, let alone pay for a generator.

Related: Zimbabwe at risk of power cuts as dam levels fall

We are in darkness

“To cook porridge for my children needs electricity, also for me to prepare myself something to eat,” Chiwashira said while stoking a fire she had made outside her house to prepare supper. “We are always in darkness. It’s not easy. Life in the city is tough without electricity. You have to buy firewood unlike in rural areas where you can fetch it in forests.

“I can’t afford to buy both wood and candles, so my children cannot do their schoolwork in the evening.”

Zimbabwe last month introduced rolling electricity power cuts known as “load-shedding” due to low water levels at the Kariba hydro-power station, as well as the country’s crumbling power infrastructure and lack of funds to pay for energy imports.

The ZESA power utility said cuts would be imposed between 5:00 am and 10:00 am and 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm, but they often last longer. “Last week we had no electricity on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Chiwashira said. “We only got supplies back on Monday afternoon.”

Energy minister Fortune Chasi has pledged the outages would be reduced, and urged consumers to pay their bills to enable ZESA to buy more power from neighbouring countries. 

“We will be turning the corner pretty soon,” Chasi told a post-Cabinet briefing this week, adding that ZESA had just paid a $20-million debt to neighbouring South Africa. South Africa’s state-owned energy company Eskom on Friday denied the money had been paid.

Related: Zimbabweans happy with sack of energy minister over power cuts

No post-Mugabe upturn

One of few to see an improvement in his business is Simba Vuremu, a stationery shop owner who has added solar lighting units to his stock. “They are selling and selling fast,” he said.

After Robert Mugabe was ousted from power in 2017, many Zimbabweans hoped that their country’s long economic decline would be reversed under his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa promised to end the country’s international isolation, attract investors and create growth that could fund the country’s shattered public services. But the economy has declined further, with shop prices rocketing at the fastest rate since hyperinflation wiped out savings and pensions ten years ago.

For Caution Kasisi, 45, another furniture-maker in Glen View, the power cuts have only added to his worries. “We have a small petrol-powered generator which cannot run for a long time,” he said.

“The price of food and other things like school fees are going up and we are not getting much money because we can’t deliver our goods. We have got a problem.”

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South African Airways bailout talks stall

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In light of a poor financial outlook at South African Airways (SAA), including lack of cash for flight operations, the airline has addressed reports of impending bankruptcy, assuring customers and stakeholders that its flights are continuing to operate as normal.

“The airline is aware of media reports suggesting that it will cease operations. SAA is always committed to transparently communicate with all stakeholders, including customers, about any material or significant operational changes that may have an impact on flight schedules,” the airline issued an official press release on January 20, 2020.

In order for the airline to avoid collapse and ensure connectivity, the South African government placed the carrier under bankruptcy protection in December 2019, including a $272 million bailout to keep flights running. With not a single profitable year since 2011 and a bailout sum that amounts to $2 billion through the years, the airline was looking for a strategic partner to help it navigate through tough weather.

The airline’s business rescue practitioners held talks with the government at the weekend to try to find a solution on the funding gap but as of Sunday evening, no solution had been found.

Last week, a senior trade union official said SAA could have to suspend some flights and delay salary payments if the government doesn’t come up with a plan to provide the funds soon.

On Sunday, the public enterprises ministry said it was talking with the National Treasury to raise funds for SAA.

The airline is one of several South African state entities, including power company Eskom, mired in financial crisis after nearly a decade of mismanagement.

Recent reports reveal that at least, a dozen flights to and from the SAA hub in Johannesburg have been grounded.

The cancelled departures include the Monday evening flight to Munich. The loss of this flight will trigger payments of €600 to each passenger under European air passengers’ rights rules.

Ten flights to and from Durban and six links with Cape Town have been axed. In addition, some SA Express services have been grounded. These have SAA flight numbers but are operated by a separate carrier.

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President Kenyatta launches Kenya’s first green bond at London Stock Exchange

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President Uhuru Kenyatta today rang the bell to kick off the trading of Kenya’s first green bond at the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Speaking during the launch, the President urged UK investors to use Kenya as a gateway to investing in Africa and AS a bridge to the emerging market of more than 1.2 billion people created by the African Continental Free Trade Area.

“Kenya is one of the top ten fastest growing economies on the continent and also one of the most pro-business nations in Africa,” President Kenyatta said. The President is in London to attend the UK–Africa Investment Summit.

The $40 million (over 4 billion shillings) bond by Nairobi-based property developer Acorn Holdings, started trading today at the LSE and becomes the first Kenya shilling corporate green bond to be listed in the United Kingdom. The bond, which was first listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange last week, will help Acorn Holdings raise funds to build environmentally friendly accommodation for 50,000 university students in Nairobi.

The Kenyan leader applauded last year’s signing of an MoU by the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and the London Stock Exchange to work with Kenyan companies to help them expand their footprint by jointly listing on the bourse in Nairobi and in London. 

“I note that to date the LSE has admitted over 200 bonds from across the world, raising over 33 billion Pound Sterling worth of capital for sustainable development,” he pointed out. 

Secretary of State for International Development, Rt. Honourable Alok Sharma, said one of the reasons the green bond was happening was because of the support the UK government has provided in terms of the regulation environment and the partial guarantees for investors.

“This is a landmark moment here as well as in the whole of London for we are here today because of the UK-Africa Investment Summit. We have over eight of the 50 fast growing economies in the world in Africa,” Mr Sharma said.

President Kenyatta, along with other African leaders, is in London to attend the UK–Africa Investment Summit.

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Iceland’s Samherji to exit Namibia following bribery scandal

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Samherji, the Icelandic fishing company at the centre of Namibia’s biggest corruption scandal, has announced that it is withdrawing from the country.

The move comes as former justice minister, Sakeus Shanghala and fisheries minister, Bernardt Esau, along with two former employees of South Africa’s Investec, remain in custody.

The accused have been in custody since November following allegations of conspiracy with Samherji to receive payments worth 100 million Namibian dollars ($6.92 million) in exchange for horse mackerel fishing quotas.

Interim Chief Executive, Björgólfur Jóhannsson, said in a statement, that Samherji is currently de-investing its Namibian operations, but did not give a time frame, only saying that the process “will take some time”.

Samherji had tried to sell its assets in Namibia, including a $400 million vessel, before the bribery scandal made international headlines.

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