Fear of authority must go

In this issue we report on an ingenious method being used by desperate Bulawayo citizens in an attempt to avoid being disconnected by Zesa for failing to pay their power bills.

Besides demonstrating communal creativity in the face of adversity, this story reflects a sad resignation on the part of the residents: that Zesa can plunge them into darkness at any moment – and often does so.

This resignation betrays deep-seated fear – fear of authority, no matter how misplaced. But the saddest thing about the story is that the people of Bulawayo are being forced to fund a service that is fraught with unfairness, controversy, obscurity and criminality.

This is not confined to Bulawayo. Across the country, urban residents have to contend with shoddy service delivery – not only from Zesa, but from municipal authorities and other service providers too.

While we can buy the line that power is in short supply and residents have to contend with frequent power cuts, and while we can accept the excuse that municipalities have no money to buy water sanitising chemicals, it is clear that the billing regimes used by these institutions are unfair.

The debts accumulated are a result of the intrinsically unfair use of estimates – which are often a gross overstatement of actual consumption. The hapless residents are in a fix because all their feeble attempts to complain are blocked by red tape and institutional incompetence.

Some time ago, the Minister of Energy gave a directive that estimated billings should stop. But it seems no-body listens to him.

Zimbabweans are renown for choosing to skirt hurdles instead of removing them. But this need not be so. Faced with the injustices perpetrated by public service institutions like Zesa and municipalities, we need to organise ourselves into vibrant and uncompromising lobby groups that fight for our civil rights.

These groups, divorced from political affiliation—for there is no water or Zesa with a Zanu (PF) or MDC colour—should strive to confront the authorities, perhaps with the assistance of pro deo legal intervention, to ensure that there are acceptable billing systems, service is given in accordance with the law, and culprits are dealt with accordingly.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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