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Harare’s Informal Economy Hardest Hit by Power Outages

Zimbabwe has been reeling under crippling power shortages since the start of winter in May. Some of the country’s ageing power plants are being repaired and the rest are struggling to cope with growing demand. The country has the capacity to generate about 2,240 megawatts of power but is producing just 1,300 megawatts. People in Mbare, in the south of the capital, Harare, regularly go without electricity for more than 17 hours a day.  The shortages have hit Mbare’s ironing businesses, which are becoming a popular hustle in the suburb as unemployment and inflation rates soar across the country. Almost 60 people run their businesses from the Matapi block of flats in Mbarel before the power cuts they were earning up to $100 (£83) a week. They support a booming secondhand clothing industry in the area. Chari and his colleagues are inundated with orders from used clothing dealers who want their goods ironed before selling them on. Energy minister Soda Zhemu couldn’t say when the crisis would be over. “We would not know … because currently we are working on aged equipment. We can only give assurance when Hwange power station is up and running … That is when we will have self-sufficiency from internal generation,” he recently told parliament. Hwange coal power station, a leading supplier, has been under repair for more than a year. Two new units are being built to increase output, but they are unlikely to be in operation until the end of the year at the earliest.