Tanzanian presidential hopeful accuses power firm workers of sabotage

Tanzanian presidential hopeful accuses power firm workers of sabotage

Tanzania’s ruling party presidential candidate, running on an anti-corruption ticket, said state power company employees were draining dams at night to cut electricity supply so they could benefit from fuel import deals for emergency power.

John Magufuli, 55, has pledged to create a special court to oversee all corruption-related issues and says, if elected, his government would have zero tolerance for graft.

Magufuli, front-runner according to two polls, told supporters at a campaign rally in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam that he had evidence that workers at state utility TANESCO were deliberately opening dam floodgates.

He offered no evidence of that.

“This sabotage is done to create power shortages so that they can import fuel for power generation… That’s where some dishonest employees of the state power company get their kickbacks,” he said on Wednesday.

Tanzanians vote on Oct. 25 for a president to replace Jakaya Kikwete, who is retiring at the end of his two terms of office.

Homes and businesses in the country of more than 47 million people go without electricity for several hours every day after power generation fell by about a quarter, forcing authorities to start rationing this month.

“I will end the ongoing power blackouts when elected president … I want to become president so I change the way things are done,” he said.

A TANESCO official denied Magufuli’s allegations and said power outages had eased over the past few days after a new 150MW gas-fired power plant was commissioned last week.

Some members of parliament have in the past accused energy ministry and power utility officials of creating artificial power shortages so they can switch to emergency oil-fired power plants and solicit bribes during fuel import tenders.

Like other African nations, Tanzania has faced frequent power blackouts over the past decade, mainly due to under- investment and mismanagement of the sector.

The government says it hopes power cuts will end next week and on Oct. 31 a $1.33 billion natural gas pipeline comes online to help plug the supply gap. The energy ministry says annual output needs to be 1,332 megawatts of electricity against 719 MW now.

TANESCO cut its power generation by up to 250 MW this month, resulting in rationing, after water levels in its hydroelectric dams dropped following a drought.

The United States said last month Tanzania must do more to fight corruption if it wants to receive a $472.8 million financial aid package next year.