ZESA urged to switch off Mugabe

The national power utility ZESA is facing increasing pressure to switch off top government officials who have not paid their bills, including the first family.

ZESA has embarked on a campaign to cut off supply to power bill defaulters nationwide in an effort to deal with its debt crisis, as the parastatal is unable to afford to repair the dilapidated power grid. This has resulted in a worsening power service and countrywide Zimbabweans have had little to no electricity for hours and sometimes days at a time.

SW Radio Africa has been told that some residents in Kadoma have had such intermittent power service that outages have lasted as long as three days. One resident said that water supplies there have also been irregular and that they had gone a week without water recently.

Other power consumers have also explained that power, when it is available, is most often only available in the dead of night or other inconvenient times, meaning normal day to day living is all but impossible.

ZESA has argued that its switch-off campaign will encourage defaulters to pay their outstanding bills, meaning more money for it to pay off its own debts and start improving the service.

But Zimbabweans have slammed the utility for ‘selective’ cut offs, in the aftermath of a report that exposed top government officials among the country’s worst defaulters. This included the First Family who reportedly owed the state utility more than US$300,000 as of December 2011.

Also exposed with more than US$300,000 in outstanding bills were Manicaland Governor Chris Mushowe and CIO boss Happyton Bonyongwe. Others exposed include; Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, whose bill ran to more than US$54,000; Paddy Zhanda the ZANU PF Goromonzi North MP US$174,000; Women’s Affairs Minister and ZANU PF Mutoko South legislator Olivia Nyembesi Muchena who is US$44,000 in arrears. None of these individuals have been cut off.

Simba Makoni, the former Finance Minister and now President of the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that ZESA must carry out its switch off exercise “without fear or favour.” He explained that even the President and his wife must be cut off if they do not either pay their bills in full or make a payment plan with ZESA.

“ZESA should have started by switching off those power users who owe huge amounts, and then moved down last to the ordinary person,” Makoni said, agreeing that it is “disturbing” that the average Zimbabwean is being cut off before the top government defaulters.

Makoni said the government should be leading by example and those officials who have been exposed for not paying their bills should be “embarrassed.”

“I think it is silly that the furore in government has not been about how much is owed, but about the fact that this information was released at all. They should be embarrassed, because they have been exposed as raping this public company,” Makoni said.

ZESA meanwhile has faced even more criticism after the death of a child as a result of exposed power lines. Ten year old Takudzwa Nyandoro died last Friday from burns sustained after falling into a ditch where naked ZESA cables were lying. The child was buried at Granville Cemetery on Sunday.

It has since been revealed that the family had to fight with ZESA who initially refused to compensate them, until they produced receipts proving that they were customers. Legal intervention by the family eventually resulted in ZESA being forced to supply them with a coffin, transport and US$300 to cover other funeral expenses.

This was just one of a number of deaths caused by ZESA’s gross incompetence and negligence. In just about any other country in the world ZESA would no longer exist as a company. SW Radio Africa

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