CHALLENGES in purchasing electricity tokens have plunged most houses into darkness, a development that sparked outrage in most suburbs with consumers accusing the power utility of incompetence.
People are failing to purchase electricity tokens through mobile banking platforms, prompting them to flock to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) banking halls for assistance during lockdown.
Long winding queues characterised the power utility’s premises as desperate consumers converged to buy tokens.
The public was not even observing social distancing to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19.
Electricity consumers have expressed concern over seemingly conflicting statements issued by ZETDC and some mobile banking platforms in explaining the ongoing systems challenge.
ZETDC is on record apologising to its customers for the challenge.
The power utility said the system was simply congested by customers who prefer buying electricity tokens on the first week of every month.
“The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) would like to apologise to its valued customers for the long turnaround periods in the processing of transactions in the purchase of electricity.
“ZETDC advises that delays being experienced by customers are due to high volumes of token purchases during the beginning of the month and are putting pressure on the system, the position that we are in the process of addressing,” reads the statement.
ZETDC said people were failing to appreciate that purchase of the first cheaper 200 units of power can be done any day of the month.
“ZETDC further advises customers that the lifeline tariff is enjoyed once a month when they make the first token purchase of units any day during any calendar month, therefore it is not true that electricity is cheaper when purchases are done within the first five days of the month,” reads the statement.
However, banks linked to the ZETDC electricity purchase system issued a statements informing clients that the system was down.
“The ZESA top up option on Mobile Moola is currently down.
“Our service provider is working on the issue. We will advise as soon as normal service has been restored,” reads a statement by FBC Bank.
Electricity consumers yesterday breathed fire, accusing ZETDC of not telling the truth.
Ms Mercy Tembani of Manyame Park in Chitungwiza said ZETDC was not being honest.
“I received a message from my bank informing me that the system used in purchasing electricity tokens was down but ZETDC told us that it was only congestion due to too many consumers buying tokens at the same time.
“It boggles the mind how this month had become too busy when we buy tokens every month,” she said.
Mr Tafataona Shumba of Chimanimani said:
“ZESA guys are not serious. We are now spending hours in long winding queues during this Covid-19 era where social distancing is not being maintained.
“That is risky and they cannot insult us saying we do not know that electricity can be paid any day of the month.
“That much we know, but most families’ budgets ensure electricity is used wisely until end of month. That is when we top up,” he said. Consumers queueing for electricity tokens in Bulawayo said they were forced to disregard physical distancing measures claiming that ZETDC officials were letting people jump queues during the chaotic scenes.
Electricity token vendors exploited desperate consumers by putting mark-ups of more than 30 percent per purchase.
Residents said it did not make sense that the utility could claim that its servers were overwhelmed, when they have been buying tokens with ease at the start of every month.
“What has changed now? We always buy power online but at the moment when you try to buy tokens via Ecocash, you will receive a message saying your transaction has been sent for processing but you do not get a recharge token. It’s my second day queuing for electricity as I no longer have power at home. I’m afraid that if I don’t get it today my refrigerated meat will go bad. Zesa should solve this problem,” said Mr John Mlilo, from Cowdray Park suburb, who was in a queue outside a banking hall at the corner of Fife Street and 10th Avenue. Another Bulawayo consumer Mr Nyasha Tawonizvi said he had been in the queue since 10am, but still had not bought tokens at 3pm.