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Job Losses Feared In Restructuring Of Zimbabwe Electric Utility

Management of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority have confirmed that a big restructuring of the troubled state enterprise is in store, raising fears that hundreds of workers could be laid off soon after the resolution of a worker walkout.

ZESA spokesman James Maridadi confirmed a restructuring is planned, but said that details would only come from the utility's chairman, Christopher Chetsanga, who is to hold a news conference next week to outline the turnaround strategy.

The power company's aging infrastructure has been subject to breakdowns leading to widespread blackouts and power cuts, obliging ZESA to import electricity from South Africa, Zambia and other countries in the region, adding to its financial distress.

Members of the Zimbabwe Electricity and Energy Workers Union said they have not been informed of the pending restructuring. The ZESA employees who downed tools last week said they are concerned that retrenchment packages for those laid off are unlikely to be substantial given the meager wages they now receive.

Bottom-ranked ZESA workers earn Z$23,000 a month (US$92 at the official exchange rate or some US$7 at the more commonly applied parallel rate). ZESA management has offered a 144% pay rise in response to union demands for a 1,000% hike.

Former ZESA chief executive Simbarashe Mangwengwende told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that restructuring is unlikely to solve the massive problems besetting the country's electric utility.

More reports from VOA'S Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...