Pakistan in Zimbabwe 2013 September 11, 2013

Working in the dark

A powercut in Harare left most parts of the city without electricity, forcing our correspondent to search for a plug point and an internet connection

The postcard version of an African morning is sunlight and still. Light seeps through the trees, the rustle of leaves and a bird's song are the only sounds and at some point the smell of strong coffee fills the air.

In reality, unless you've paid for a stay at expensive beachside or bush lodge, that is not the case. Cellphone alarms ring, people yell, cars go past, hooters are pushed - always for too long - and unless your window faces north-east, you're likely to need to turn the light on when you rise because the sun's rays won't be filling the room just yet.

When I ventured towards the switch this morning, nothing came on. I thought little of it and even less of the odd quiet which in hindsight, was unusual. I didn't have to because a few seconds later, the whirring of a generator grew louder and the lights came on.

I went about my routine, mildly put off schedule by not having water for a few minutes when I turned the tap but it soon flowed, and it seemed another, normal day. At breakfast, I overheard another guest at the hotel ask for a cappuccino. "We normally make them but the power is off today," a staff member informed him. No big deal. The electricity supply here is not known for its stability.

Tino Mawoyo, who lives across the road from Harare Sports Club (HSC), also woke up to no electricity. He found it unusual because being in such close proximity to the presidential state house, the suburb of Avenues which is where my hotel is also located, is not often in the dark.

HSC is directly opposite the state house so it also usually powered up. But this time, there were no lights.

When I walked into the ground, I noticed the electronic scoreboard was not working. The media box contained only three people, two of them scorers, who said the internet router was also down. The broadcasters were unaffected because they had their own generator. No choice then but to head to the Centurion pub and grill, which is at the ground and next door to the building the press box is housed in, for a coffee while waiting for things to get back up.

While making my way there, I resigned myself to not getting any coffee because it couldn't be made without electricity and decided on a diet coke instead. But on entering the establishment, I was surprised. The televisions were on and music was playing. I asked a waitress whether they could make coffee and she looked at me as though I had suggested they may not know how. "Of course," she snapped.

I explained about the power situation. She didn't know the lights were out because the Centurion was running as normal. They are connected to the same grid as the state house and rarely experience any interruptions. When I heard that, I realised I may need the Centurion for more than just a caffeine boost.

By lunch, when the electricity had still not returned, I needed their power point. They did not have a reliable internet connection but theirs came and went and was enough to get by. They also gave me a completely different spot to watch the game from - slightly away from behind the bowler's arm and able to hear every bit of on-field noise.

While working out the piece I wanted to write, Dav Whatmore came strolling past. "This has got to be one of the better press boxes you've sat in," he said. I told him about the electricity. He nodded warily. "There's none in the changeroom either. And we didn't have any water at the hotel this morning." I felt a lot less sorry for myself.

Electricity is not an essential for a team dressing room but Mawoyo pointed out that the team's analyst had no access to the television or his computer. He also joked that the players, "couldn't have anything hot to drink at tea." Minor disruptions but still not what one would expect at international sporting event.

Mawoyo heard the power cut may last three days. But by the end of play today, it had come back, albeit sporadically. "I hope it stays on, otherwise it's going to be difficult for me, because of where I stay," Mawoyo said. I'm sure I'm not the only one who seconds his thoughts.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ZCF on September 12, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    Ha ha ha, I suspect some of the new Ministers recently appointed to those portfolios might be cricket fans so they've probably gone to work very quickly.

    Tens of countries - for one reason or another including being ravaged by war - have no functioning water, sewage, telephone&electrical systems etc, in major towns&cities. It could be worse Firdose. After all, there are plenty who've been waiting years and doing all in their power to force beautiful Zimbabwe towards a damaging civil war and degenerate into a failed state, but its people have resisted.

  • VENKATACHALAM on September 12, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    We didn't get these complaints when India toured Zimbabwe a couple of months ago for those 5 ODIs. Then why now ? Because it is a tour with a much lower profile.

  • Jawad on September 11, 2013, 23:46 GMT

    This reminds me of the electricity situation in Pakistan. We rarely think of the importance of something so ubiquitous until its taken away.

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