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Under Fire Over Electric Power Cuts, CEO of Zimbabwe State Utility Resigns

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Chief Executive Sydney Gata, who came under fire for his utility’s failure to provide an adequate supply of electric power, stepped down Thursday as CEO while retaining the position of non-executive chairman.

Gata told journalists at a Harare news conference that ZESA has initiated a search for a new chief executive. Gata remains chairman of the Rural Electrification Agency.

Gata, brother-in-law to President Robert Mugabe, had drawn mounting criticism for his management of the public utility. Recently, Energy and Development Minister Mike Nyambuya wrote to the president to complain about Gata's job performance.

Industry has been seriously hurt by nationwide power cuts, said National Chamber of Commerce President Luxon Zembe, who told Studio 7 that many companies are losing money paying workers who spend the day doing nothing due to power cuts.

Zembe said power cuts are also hitting the agricultural sector, as crops cannot be irrigated properly, which was very likely to impinge on harvests.

Residents of Harare, Bulawayo and Chinhoyi complained that household appliances are burning out as power is intermittently interrupted and restored. Lengthy cuts in electricity, often coming twice daily, are causing refrigerated foods to spoil.

ZESA has been hobbled by a shortage of foreign currency to purchase electricity from South Africa and to overhaul worn-out generating equipment, but Gata had also been criticized by the central bank for massive, inflation-fueling rate hikes.

The utility's former chief executive officer, Simbarashe Mangwengwende, who was displaced by Gata, explained in an interview with reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe why power cuts have become more frequent.

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