By Golden Sibanda
Fildelity Printers and Refiners, a gold buying and printing unit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), says unpredictability of power supply due to limited internal generation capacity, has negatively impacted on its operations.
General manager Fradreck Kunaka, said yesterday, that power cuts that sometimes stretch for over 12 hours a day, had significantly constrained operations, although the situation had recently improved.
Zimbabwe, which requires about 1 800 megawatts at peak demand, has constrained internal generation capacity of 800 to 900MW and so faces acute shortages after production was cut at Kariba due to low water levels.
Kariba has rated capacity of 1 050MW, but is now restricted to 257MW due to water rationing after the drought last season while Hwange Power Station, which has rated output of 920MW, can only manage about 800MW at best, but churns out just below half due to unmaintained equipment. Kariba and Hwange are Zimbabwe’s two biggest power plants.
“Power has significantly affected operations because sometimes we only get power in the evening, but there have been improvements since last week. If we are not getting power that means constrained ability to do operations,” Mr Kunaka said in an interview.
He made the remarks after a tour of the company by Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, who pledged Government commitment to resolve challenges facing industry. The deputy Minister also toured a firm called Beams and Rays in Msasa.
Mr Kunaka said the State power utility Zesa Holdings would do industry good if it devised a predictable load shedding schedule that targets specific industrial zones on a scheduled timetable basis. Fidelity Printers and Refiners has been using fuel to run generators that powered its machinery, before the power situation drastically deteriorated, but this quickly became too expensive when the load shedding worsened and extended over 12 hours.
Both the company’s gold refining operations and its commercial and security printing activities have suffered the brunt of power shortages in the country, which Government is seized with and saw it recently conclude a power import deal with Eskom of South Africa for 400MW.
“Generators have become too expensive. It makes our products unsellable and the margins too low,” Mr Kunaka told Deputy Minister Modi.
The gold buying and security and commercial printing unit of the central bank has since made a decision to invest in solar, which Mr Kunaka said was a cheaper source of energy, but requiring significant capital outlay. He also bemoaned lack of adequate supply of council water saying the company had resorted to buying water required for key operations such as cooling machines and ablution facilities. Mr Kunaka said because of drought last season, boreholes at FPR premises had run dry.
Deputy Minister Modi said he toured FPR’s operations as part of his routine schedule to familiarise with the operations and understand the nature and extent of challenges facing domestic industry.
In his comments soon after the tour, Minister Modi said the challenges facing Zimbabwe’s economy were merely a phase that required practical solutions to resolve. He said “problems are there to be solved”.
“The ideal (behind the tour) was to familiarise with people running businesses and to get information on challenges they are facing and see what Government can do as well as let them know what is in the pipeline,” he said.
Deputy Minister Modi said the challenges were common across the economy and revolved around shortage of foreign currency and adequate or consistent supply of electricity.