Peter Matambanadzo Senior Reporter
Zesa Holdings has introduced a Revenue Assurance Department to conduct spot inspections in households and industries countrywide as it moves to flush out power thieves.
This follows reports that the power utility was losing at least US$10 million monthly due to electricity thefts by a syndicate involving its current and former employees.
Massive leaks of pre-paid meter units at the power utility and from firms contracted to supply the components, have also seen some electricity users using power for free.
In an interview yesterday, Zesa Holdings spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said a number of revenue protection initiatives were being implemented to mitigate against energy thefts.
“ZETDC has also established a Revenue Assurance Department that looks after reduction and control of system losses, including energy thefts. ZETDC’s revenue protection initiatives are leveraging on technology and human resources,” he said.
Mr Gwasira said the measures included mounting of meters on the pole, deployment of Zesa Loss Control to follow up on suspected cases of meter bypasses, general customer education on the need to safeguard electricity infrastructure and prosecution of those found on the wrong side of the law.
He said the migration to smart metering was also expected to improve security of metering points.
“There are plans to install about 300 000 smart meters and convert the standard prepaid meters installed in Phase One to smart meters so that they can be monitored remotely. The standard prepaid meters installed in Phase One have dormant smart metering functionality that can be activated by a few additional gadgets,” Mr Gwasira said.
He said Zesa Holdings before customers were registered in the prepaid system, they have to first be de-enrolled from the post paid system and at the same time, their outstanding debt was transferred to the prepayment system where debt was amortised at a rate of 20 percent every time a customer made a purchase.
However, investigations show that people at more than 4 000 properties in Harare, mainly in upmarket suburbs, tampered with prepaid meters, bypassing the Zesa system so that electricity is supplied for free.
Sources told The Herald that a cartel of Zesa employees was clandestinely cancelling mega-bills of electricity users still on the post-paid billing system in exchange for a few hundred US dollars.
After cancelling the bills, they then install pre-paid meters without Zesa’s knowledge.
For this, they are paid between US$300 and US$600 by electricity users who want their huge bills cancelled.