HRT Calls on ZESA to cancel Debts

The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) commends the call by a Member of Parliament (MP) calling on the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to cancel debts accrued by consumers from February 2009 to December 2010.

The debts which remain inflated estimates are not in line with present poor service delivery by the power utility and the billing not cognisant of monthly remuneration of the mass populace of Zimbabwe. This has triggered anger and public unrest amongst the citizens of Harare who toil daily to settle bills whilst power disconnections loom. In the interim residents continue to fall victim to blackmail by ZESA employees who threaten to cut off electricity if they do not bribe them. Leaving them without adequate funds to go and settle their arrears with the parastatal as ZESA wants residents to pay at least 50 percent of the current estimated debt which most citizens cannot afford.

On 20 June 2012, the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security tabled a discussion with Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) officials, where it was clear that the power utility has lost touch with reality. The officials indicated they had cancelled debt as of February 2009 and indicated they are owed US$600 million fingering residents as the chief debtors. ZESA Holdings subsidiary Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) acting manager Howard Choga declared that residents are being billed on average US$ 25-30 in high density suburbs while in low density areas their billing averages $50 and $70, a declaration directly contradicting the situation on the ground, coming from an institution that has been basing its bills on estimates.

From the daily cases being received at the HRT from residents, in Highfield citizens with four roomed houses receive bills that are disoriented and divorced from actual consumption, one household receives a monthly bill of US$56 whilst the house next door averages US$2 855,94 indicating huge variances and industrial/commercial billing on domestic units.

In another case received by the HRT from Glen Norah a resident whose power was disconnected owed ZESA US$12 000 while his neighbours averaged US$49. This supposes that even after ZESA’s claimed cancellation ,the resident in question was being billed an average of US$ 333 per month despite making payments to ZESA, which did not result in the account realising any deductions on the current bill. Choga’s statement that bills should range between US$25-30 in high density areas and US$50-70 in low density areas is a fallacy.

Meanwhile, ZESA has not stuck to its scheduled load shedding timetable. The winter programme stipulates that all areas are to go for nine hours without power on the designated day. Power rationing is to be from 0400hrs up to 1300hrs or from 1300hrs up to 2200hrs. However reports from Kuwadzana Phase 3, Glen Norah and Tafara where residents committees have been recording the slated programme show that they are going without electricity from 04:00 hours to 22:00 hours, experiencing 18 hours with no power.

ZESA remains adamant and has stated that it will continue with its estimated billing system this raises eyebrows over the competency and accountability of ZESA staff in executing their mandate. Furthermore its claim in the discussion that it does not have resources to mobilise employees to go and do actual meter reading demonstrates failure to discharge a public mandate.

The HRT therefore calls for the scrapping off all bills from February 2009 up to December 2010 accrued on residents’ accounts as the credibility and intentions of ZESA are nothing short of daylight robbery to residents and not directed towards improved, affordable service delivery.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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