GWERU: Around 9 p.m., a sudden brightness pops up and is immediately followed by loud celebrations. If you witness such, it signals that power has been restored after a daylong outage.
Life in the streets also immediately becomes visible as men in half torn overalls ride through their bicycles headed for their night shift at Jinan. Do they ever get new protective wear? Reality then starts unfolding.
Mkoba, Gweru’s biggest high-density suburb, worsening power shortages have effectively turned day into night for many businesses, with most work happening well after dark, when lights flicker on for a few hours.
For families it is the same. Nomagugu Piwa laments how they work during odd hours, all in effort to normalise the abnormal.
Piwa begins her nocturnal routine by fetching firewood which she gets 5km from the comfort of her home and water from a borehole, as water is also scarce.
“Our firewood source is far and water queues are also very long,” she said.
She then converts a small coffee table in the middle of her living room into an ironing board and starts pressing the family’s clothes including her husband’s work overall. Other sources of energy like gas and solar have also remained relatively expensive for common urban dwellers.
“Our lives have become unbearable,” she added. “We are always tired now, but what can we do?”
The power outages have made business even more expensive in the high-density suburb West of Gweru.
“The cuts are not even announced. When our gadgets get damaged because of this, you don’t even know who is answerable,” added a local entrepreneur, Lungile Sibanda.
No concrete communication has been produced by Zimbabwe Electricity Development and Transmission Company over the unusual developments.
“Zesa Holdings would like to advise its valued customers countrywide that there is limited power supply on the national grid due to a technical fault at Hwange Power Station,” read their most recent statement.
The blackouts have also been crippling factories and mines and compounding the industrious city’s efforts to revive commerce.
The hope that greeted Mugabe’s ousting in 2017 has now turned to despair as power outages that had partially disappeared during the ‘new dispensation’ have suddenly reappeared.
Meanwhile the electricity situation has resulted in the proliferation of wood markets in Mkoba and has also attracted a market of illegal wood vendors who are causing environmental harm in the process of practicing their business.