Friday (Part 2)
Electricity is a serious problem in Tanzania. TANESCO, the governmental organization responsible for the generation, distribution, and sale of electricity, officially imposed electricity rationing throughout the country in early 2011. Although power cuts are supposed to be rotate around the city in blocks of time no longer than four hours, different neighbourhoods have been affected disproportionately and some face constant power outages that last for as long as 12 hours. In Mikocheni, where I live, the power cuts are usually for short periods of time in the morning or the early evening. In Kinondoni, where I work, power cuts occur every other day and stretch from mid-morning until the end of the working day. There is widespread frustration that the neighbourhoods where government officials and the wealthy live have less frequent power cuts than the poorer neighbourhoods.
The government’s position is that the current power crisis is a direct result of the drought in East Africa. Tanzania relies heavily on hydropower and the water levels in Tanzania’s hydro-electric dams are currently very low.
The Tanzanians that I have spoken to, however, blame the power cuts on government corruption, the mismanagement of government resources, and the failure of the government to adequately prepare for the drought. Power outages are often referred to as “a Negeleja”, after William Negeleja who is the Minister of Energy and Minerals.
The power cuts are a source of anger and embarrassment for my coworkers. As in Canada, the lawyers in the legal aid centre where I work rely on computers for their everyday tasks. Everything grinds to a halt when there is no power.
Last week, the legal aid centre used some of its funding to purchase an inverter to help insulate us from the frequent electricity cuts. An inverter is much less expensive than a generator and runs on battery power. It can’t be used to power an air conditioner or light the whole office, but it can be used for smaller appliances and computers.
This morning I was working on a grant proposal when I heard an explosion followed by screaming. The inverter had exploded into a ball of flames. Everyone ran outside to escape the building. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and the damage was minimal.
The smell of burnt rubber and melted plastic lingers in the air. We are all packing it in early and heading home to get some work done. That is, if the power is functioning in our respective neighbourhoods.