Zimbabwe's perennial power crisis could worsen, if neighbors from whom the country imports power carry out their threats to cut off the supply for non-payment.
Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to meet its power needs. So it makes up for the deficit by importing from its neighbors. But because of the chronic shortage of foreign currency, the country has fallen $57 million behind on its payments for imported power. Now, state media reports the suppliers are threatening to stop supply until they are paid.
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority spokesperson, Fullard Gwasira, declined to confirm whether those owed money had set any deadlines for payment. But he admits they are getting impatient.
"We have not been paying as well as we would love to, but of course we have got a payment plan in place," Gwasira said. "But the major constraint has been our own customers have not been paying in as much as we would like. We rely on our customers. What they give us is what we use to import power."
Gwasira says most consumers have not paid their monthly bills since the country switched to using hard currencies earlier this year. As a result, the utility is now putting the squeeze on defaulting consumers, giving them until Saturday to settle their arrears or be switched off.
Even before the threatened cutoffs by the neighbors, the power utility has been warning consumers now-routine power cuts could get worse because of electric authority's inability to generate to its capacity.
Gwasira says one of Zimbabwe's main power generating stations is only partially operational because of the authority's inability to pay for coal to fuel the generator.
Zimbabweans have had to endure power blackouts for years because of problems with the old power generation plants in the country breaking down. Gwasira says widespread vandalism is also taking its toll.