|Write-off defaulters bills, Zesa told|
|Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:00|
PARLIAMENT has recommended that Zesa write-off the over US$600 million it is owed by its customers since it is now clear they cannot afford to settle their dues. The Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Peace and Security yesterday told Zesa officials that Zimbabweans wanted the bills written off so that they could start on a fresh note.
Rushinga Senator Cde Damian Mumvuri (Zanu-PF) chairs the committee.
Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company acting managing director, Engineer Howard Choga and ZETDC commercial director, Engineer Enock Ncube appeared before the committee.
“Why don’t you write off the debt or set it aside?” asked Senator Mumvuri.
“The people we represent want you to write off the debt so that they can start afresh and they said they will not default in paying if the debt is written off.
“You may also make plans so that the debt can be paid later.”
Murehwa Senator Cde Tendayi Makunde (Zanu-PF) added: “You said you are owed over US$600 million and I am sure by now you know you will not be paid that money. Are you going to ask Government to pay it or just write it off?”
But Eng Ncube said they strongly believed that those who owed the power utility will settle their bills.
He acknowledged that Zesa was a loss-making entity mainly due to customers’ failure to settle bills on time.
Eng Ncube said some of the customers had failed to settle their bills since the introduction of the use of multiple currencies in 2009.
“When the country moved to dollarisation, we made sure everybody started on zero, we did not carry over debts from the pre-dollarisation era except for big customers like mines who were already paying in forex,” he said.
“Unfortunately we are still picking up people who have never paid anything since 2009 and we have just disconnected them.
“However, we have told our staff that they should not disconnect customers who have been loyal, those who have been paying the bills consistently, we instructed them to ask the clients if there are any problems.
“Disconnecting is not a good thing, we do it but we don’t like it.”
Senators also castigated Zesa’s disconnections and load shedding system, especially for winter wheat farmers.
They said cutting off electricity supplies to farmers who were producing food for the country was a threat to peace and national security.
“You publish your load shedding timetable and you don’t follow it,” said Senator Siphiwe Ncube of Emganwini (MDC-T).
“Farmers get electricity at 10pm and they are cut off at 3am. How then do you expect them to irrigate their wheat when it takes about three hours to get water in all the pipes?”
Senator Mumvuri asked why Zesa did not allow farmers to pay electricity bills after harvesting.
He wondered why Zesa did not come up with a load shedding arrangement with the farmers so that their wheat could not be affected.
Bikita Senator Kokerai Rugara (MDC-T) said there was need for Zesa to give preferential treatment to winter wheat farmers considering that wheat production was mainly through irrigation.
Eng Choga said they had come up with a load shedding timetable for winter wheat farmers which they adhered to.
He said it will take about five years to commission the Kariba and Hwange expansions to increase electricity output. Legislators queried the huge estimate bills at the same time calling for the power utility’s public relations department to improve its communication with clients.
Mzilikazi Senator Matson Hlalo (MDC-T) said the Zesa bills were not commensurate with Zimbabweans’ income.