Members of the manufacturing industry in Francistown last week took officials of the Botswana Power Corporation to task and raked them over hot coals over the power crisis that has gripped the country saying that the deplorable situation is detrimental to economic development as it has greatly affected their operations.
At a meeting organized by the BPC and the Botswana Export and Manufacturers Association, BPC officials found themselves back pedaling as they faced the full wrath of irate business people in Francistown who told them in no uncertain terms that they were very disturbed by the woes that have bedeviled the corporation and the lax way the corporation was handling the power crisis.
Speaker after speaker lamented the corporation‘s officials’ poor planning saying that it was surprising that BPC would wait for disaster to strike before engaging other stakeholders.
”Why are you only coming to us with this now? Why were we not told of the impending disaster in time so that we could plan ahead,” they asked in exasperation.
The business community also questioned why the corporation had not made plans to source alternative power as they had always known that Eskom would cut supplies to Botswana. They also questioned the BPC’s sole dependency on Eskom, asking why the corporation had not made efforts to source power from other countries other than South Africa, especially when they knew that the South African power demand was going to escalate. “There is a serious lack of planning at BPC,” they charged.
While the corporation has in the past released a power outage schedule indicating areas and times during which they would be cutting power, it has emerged that the corporation’s schedule is not reliable.
“Many a time we told our workers not to come to work because the schedule indicated that there would be no power only for the power to be available on the specified day,” they said, asking if the corporation will foot the labour bill and pay for the costs of lost production.
The manufacturers also said that sometimes they get power cuts in the middle of the production process resulting in serious damages and loss of income as they have to discard their products.
”At least if the corporation can give us a reliable schedule we can be able to work around it. But as it is, we are only operating haphazardly and this is bad for business,” they said. It emerged that Botswana Breweries at some point had to discard 60 000 liters of damaged traditional Chibuku beer after a power cut.
Manufacturers in the textile industry also lamented the fact that the intermittent and spontaneous power cuts result in serious damages for which the corporation cannot compensate them. They also said that the power cuts are bad for business as continued damages and lost production time means that they fail to meet production targets to satisfy their orders which make customers lose faith in them.
“On top of that, we have to pay huge penalties when we don’t deliver orders in time. But it seems BPC is oblivious to all these facts,” they said.
Meanwhile the Director of Corporate Services, John Helmund, told the business community that the power crisis was not only peculiar to Botswana but was rather international.
“This is not a problem that is only peculiar to Botswana and it is unfair to put the whole blame on BPC because almost all countries in the region are facing the same problem,” he said.
He also explained that while they would try to revise their schedule, there is not much that they can do about the intermittent power cuts because they only get very limited time to prepare for power supply cuts from Eskom.