MDC leader Nelson Chamisa on Monday warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa that “dark clouds are gathering”, after the latest round of fuel price increases and a worsening power crisis which led the country’s biggest mobile phone company to give notice that it would take “drastic measures” if power outages continued.
Fuel went up by 23 percent on Monday, the second increase inside a week and the fourth overall this year.
Two major supermarkets – OK and Pick n Pay – closed their shops in the town of Rusape, Manicaland province, citing the ongoing power cuts. The shops had no diesel for their generators, management said.
Last Saturday, Zimbabwe’s payment systems were thrown into chaos after Econet – which controls over 85 percent of electronic payments in Zimbabwe through its EcoCash platform – suffered a six-hour network failure.
Econet says its generators failed, leading to the blackout which affected data, voice, SMS and payment services.
In a statement on Monday, the company said the ongoing power crisis was forcing it to spend huge amounts of money on diesel-powered generators which were running nearly 18 hours daily – beyond the scope of its systems designs.
“Econet would like to point out that the company cannot sustain the current operating conditions of running back-up generators for 14 to 18 hours daily, based on the current heavily eroded tariffs,” the company said.
“… we have stepped up our engagement with the relevant stakeholders with a view to finding an urgent solution to the problem that Econet and the mobile telecommunications industry faces due to the national power crisis. If the authorities that oversee the industry do not offer quick viable solutions as required in the current crisis, the business will have no choice but to take drastic measures to ensure sustainable service.”
Econet is said to be exploring several options, including taking down its network when there is no power; sharply raising tariffs and limiting services only to profitable zones, mainly urban areas.
Chamisa has been under pressure to lead protests against Mnangagwa’s government. He told Zimbabweans on Twitter Monday that “the time is now upon us” when asked when the MDC will “start taking action”.
“I see the cumulonimbus clouds forming,” Chamisa said in reply to another Zimbabwean who told the MDC leader it was “time to vibrate the ground”.
Chamisa added: “Can’t you see the darkening clouds gathering above you?”
Despite the latest fuel price hike, most pumps remained dry, with no end in sight to shortages that are helping drive inflation rapidly higher and which have led to protests about the cost of living.
With inflation soaring, economic analysts say increases in fuel prices are adding to price pressures, especially as rolling electricity cuts are forcing businesses to use expensive diesel generators to power their operations.
Zimbabweans are also grappling with shortages of medicines and bread, while trade unions are demanding pay increases.