ZESA tariff hike a threat to national security
By Simbarashe Moyo (CHRA Chairperson)
The recent announcement by ZESA that it will increase its tariffs by 31% with effect from September 2011 is totally ill-advised and can easily become a threat to national security if it is allowed to stand amid battle cries by residents who for years have been bearing the brunt caused by corrupt-ridden and malfunctioning parastatals.
Because of several years of gross mismanagement and monumental corruption the residents are now being asked to subsidise the looming collapse of our once efficient parastatals that used to be the envy of the region.
There is one thing that has become clear, that even after hiking the tariffs by any percentage there is no guarantee whatsoever that the residents will get uninterrupted power supply from ZESA, which has proved beyond reasonable doubt that it cannot meet the nation’s energy needs.
When a parastatal invests in luxury and hefty allowances of senior bureaucrats it can only reap challenges like these ones and always resorts to punishing unsuspecting residents who are already overburdened by the effects of a struggling economy.
I am reminded of 2009 around the same time when ZESA did the same ill-advised move of ambushing residents with a tariff hike and we made it very clear then that as residents we were not going to foot the increment because we could not afford such an increment. Besides, residents were already failing to pay before the increment so it was illogical to increase the tariffs at that time.
I need to re-emphasise that the same reasons still stand that residents are still failing to pay the current rates and for the parastatal to announce an increment now is not only irresponsible but reckless leadership which must be seen in the context of failed governance. Residents are prepared to resist this unwelcome move through every means at their disposal.
We hope that ZESA will be honest enough to tell the nation that; its recent move will not improve power supply, mismanagement has led to the parastatal being owed millions in unpaid bills by the central government (not the residents) and the lasting solution lies in installing pre-paid meters to improve revenue collection.
ZESA can improve power supply by installing more hydro-electric generators at Kariba, like what Zambia is currently doing instead of relying on importing power. When you generate your own power it means that you can be in a position to control the price of that power something that you can’t do when you rely on imports.
With the growing demand for energy in the region we are slowly coming to the time when it will be difficult to import energy from the neighbouring countries which will eventually succumb to rising domestic energy needs. When this happens l hope ZESA will be prepared to trigger home-grown solutions into motion.
Lastly let me remind our dear parastatal that the solution does not lie in hiking tariffs as and when you deem it fit but lies in innovative strategic thinking, weeding out the massive mismanagement threatening its existence and listening to the needs of the residents who contribute through rates towards the sustainability of the parastatal.
I call upon the Parliamentary portfolio committee on energy and power development to conduct public enquiries on how to approach the problem of ZESA. I call upon the government of Zimbabwe to urgently address the tariffs hike by ZESA as it has a potential of sparking massive protests within our communities which are already reeling under dark days and nights resulting from power cuts.
Simbarashe Moyo is the chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA).