New President of the Pan-African Parliament Fortune Charumbira in the middle. Photo by Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick

By Staff Reporter

Persistent power outages which substituted rowdy parliamentarians, were a blemish on the proceedings at the Pan-Africa Parliament (PAP) as Zimbabwean Chief Fortune Charumbira was elected new PAP president. Last year, chaos erupted as southern African MPs forcibly prevented the election from going ahead demanding regional rotation. They said West Africa should not field a candidate as it had previously held the presidency, as had central Africa and east Africa. So, only southern and north Africa should contest the election.
On Tuesday, June 28 the opening session was delayed for hours as the South African power utility Eskom continued its stage 6 load-shedding not seen in over two years. Red-faced South African parliamentarians were at pains to explain the embarrassment.
ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina said there were meetings between parliamentary officials and Eskom in an effort to minimise the impact of load-shedding on the PAP parliamentary session.
Nothing worked out and PAP, like any other business in South Africa, was conducted in darkness.
The African Union (AU) pulled all the stops to ensure that last year’s scenes were not to be repeated. The Africa continental body assigned Moussa Faki Mahamat the chairperson of the AU Commission to oversee the elections. Charumbira was seconded to contest for Presidency by his Southern Africa Caucus and got 161 votes out of 203 votes cast with 31 abstaining and 11 spoilt papers. As the first order of business, he attacked colonial regionalism in his election victory speech.
“I want us to come together. We need to immediately fight and destroy divisions caused by these foreign languages in Africa imposed on us by outside continents and resulted in us identifying one another as Anglophones, Francophones and Lusophones,” said Charumbira.
He said as PAP president, his presidency was for everyone in the continent irrespective how they voted.
“It is high time we put our African people forward and do away with unnecessary conflicts. Together, we can achieve more, we will only develop our continent when united and this is an essential thing for our people to see and experience in our lifetime,” Charumbira.
Charumbira, a traditional leader, served as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in 2000. He holds Masters in Business Administration (MBA) as well as Bachelor in Administration Law and Labour Law. He is a specialist in Institutional Change and Performance Improvement. His countryman and journalist Nyasha Chingono said Charumbira was familiar with the power outages as Zimbabwe has been plunged into darkness for years now.
The crisis begun after water levels at the Kariba Dam fell to its lowest since 1996, worsening the power generation catastrophe. He said Zimbabwe and Zambia depend on the Kariba Dam for nearly half their power.
“Southern Africa has sunlight for three quarters of the day. We shouldn’t be having a power crisis if our governments had simply cared. Solar solutions have been with us for a long time but because of political ineptitude and corruption nothing has been done,” he told The Telegram.
Chingono said there were similarities between South Africa and Zimbabwe pointing out that South Africa could be on its way to experiencing power outages that may last days up to weeks as experienced by Zimbabweans.
“Power challenges have been worsening due to corruption at the state entity. Among a number of fraudulent deals, the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended December 31, 2018 exposed shocking levels of graft, with the power utility paying US$4,9 million for transformers nine years ago, which were never delivered. “In April last year, Zesa Holdings reduced average power output at anchor power station, Kariba South by 5,3% to 445 megawatts after the Zambezi River Authority cut the water allocation for electricity generation by 5,3% from 38 billion cubic metres to 36 billion cubic metres,” he said.
Chingono said Zimbabwe’s power utility has also been locked in a legal battle with businessman Wicknell Chivayo over a multi-million 100-megawatt Gwanda solar project.
“The US$5 million solar project, which was expected to ease Zimbabwe’s perennial power challenges, is now dead in the water following revelations that Chivayo could not deliver the power plant,” explained.
He said a major source of power, the Hwange Thermal Power Station, just like South Africa’s Kusile power station was constantly breaking down due to obsolete equipment. Zesa’s problems bear a striking resembles to its South African counterpart Eskom. At Kusile alone, corruption, theft and fraud, coupled with poor management and inadequate planning, have seen the construction costs of the facility balloon to R161 billion from the initial estimated cost of
R78 billion. The value of the alleged dodgy contracts reach a staggering R178 billion which is almost half of Eskom’s crippling debt of approximately R411 billion.

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