By Patrick Chidzero (Business Editor)
HARARE- Two cabinet ministers in Zimbabwe are among thousands of individuals and companies who have had their electricity supplies disconnected by power utility ZESA Holdings for non-payment of bills amounting to a total US$450 million.
ZESA officials refused to name the ministers saying “We have disconnected two Cabinet Ministers after they failed to pay. One of them has a bill close to US$100 000. They will be reconnected only after they pay their dues or work out some payment plans.”
Despite this reluctance to name them, Nehanda Radio.com understands one of them is Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and his estranged wife Marian. We understand the couple owe the national power utility $129 656,44 for power supplied to their Allan Grange Farm in Mashonaland West Province.
Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma last week said ministers, MPs and senior government employees were not paying their bills. Manicaland Governor Christopher Mushowe and Mangoma’s own Permanent Secretary Justin Mupamanga are some of the biggest debtors.
Mangoma said Zesa will disconnect all defaulting customers as the power utility seeks to settle $80 million it owes power supplier Hydro Cahorra Basa of Mozambique. Zesa officials have already moved into residential areas where they are switching off defaulters.
Some of the worst affected are residents in Glen Norah, Glen View, Mufakose and Budiriro and some low-density suburbs. Residents in the areas said the power utility started disconnecting them last Friday. Some of the residents have not paid their bills since the introduction of multiple currencies in 2009.
Some residents said their bills continued to accumulate despite paying. To avoid disconnection or to have power reconnected, Zesa is demanding at least 25 percent of the total bill. The balance has to be paid in an approved payment plan with Zesa for a period not exceeding six months.
Meanwhile, Copota Schools and Workshops of the Blind in Zimuto, Masvingo, which had been switched off over a US$48 000 debt, was reconnected yesterday. The school, which has over 350 visually-impaired students, had been without electricity for the past two weeks.
Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira yesterday confirmed they had reconnected the school. “Zesa remains committed to discharging its mandate of electricity provision to the nation. I am happy to inform that Copota was reconnected today at around 10 am,” he said.
“Zesa is a humane organisation and is sympathetic to vulnerable groups of society. In our efforts to collect revenue owed, each case is treated according to its merits.” Mr Gwasira declined to comment on the disconnected ministers.
Copota headmaster Mr Geffrey Chiwera said: “We were reconnected in the morning and I am happy that the pupils can concentrate on their education.” The institution relies on water pumped from Copota Dam using electric pumps. Nehanda Radio.com/Herald/NewsDay