Africa

'Recycled patriot' plugged into a sputtering Zesa

Farai Shoko

Barely two weeks into Herbert Murerwa's appointment, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority implemented power cuts, leading to a national outcry.

In the dark: Critics say new Zesas chairman Herbert Murerwa can't turn the utility around. (Aaron Ufumeli)

Former Cabinet minister Herbert Murerwa’s appointment to chair the Zesa Holdings board at a time when the power utility is battling a crippling energy crisis has been roundly criticised.

Barely two weeks into his appointment the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority had implemented renewed power cuts that last for up to 16 hours a day. The load shedding coincided with the start of the month-long Fifa Football World Cup in Brazil, leading to a national outcry.

Murerwa and his 10-member board are generally viewed by the opposition and critics of Zanu-PF as political appointees unable to provide ideas to generate new power, renew Zesa’s aging infrastructure and decisively deal with the corruption plaguing the parastatal.

Murerwa this week told the Mail & Guardian: “We have our first board meeting before the end of this week. I will only be able to outline my priorities and [those] of the board after our first board meeting, because that is where and when we will decide on our course of action,” he said.

Zesa’s new board has Murerwa as chairman, Benjamin Rafemoyo as vice-chairman and Joshua Chifamba as chief executive. Other members of the board are Evelyn Kawonza, Simplisiuis Chihambakwe, Christine Masuta, Farai Mavhiya, Godknows Mhonde and Nyasha Mandeya.

Under the government’s economic blueprint Zim-Asset, the top priority in the next four years is to reduce load shedding, which in recent years has led industries to reduce output massively.

Elias Mudzuri, a former energy minister, said not much was expected from Murerwa and his board.

Mudzuri said Murerwa, a former minister of finance, land and resettlement as well as higher education, was incapacitated by his political connections. Although he respected Murerwa, his academic qualifications and experience in government, Mudzuri said turning Zesa around needs a younger, nonpartisan professional.

“It is public knowledge he has not been well for some time. The job at hand is a daunting one. I have nothing personal against Murerwa but Zesa needs a young and energetic chair and board. The ‘new’ board consists of tired souls. Zesa needs experts and not these recycled patriots,” said Mudzuri.

He said that, apart from clear and bankable policies, Zesa needs new coal plants to fire the thermal power stations as well as another new hydro-power station to complement the Kariba power station.

“Without new power plants, we are not doing anything to restore sanity in the power and energy sector.”

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the Murerwa board will not do much, because Zesa itself has no money for capital projects.

“The board’s only advantage is that it can push its decisions through all levels of government and the party.”“Nothing personal, but Zesa needs a young chair and board”

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