Zimbabweans will continue paying electricity bills based on estimates because Zesa Holdings says it cannot entirely bill them based on actual meter readings. The power utility says it is expensive to deploy meter readers countrywide.
Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management yesterday that they would have to increase tariffs to achieve 100 percent meter reading. Zvishavane-Runde legislator Cde Larry Mavima (Zanu-PF) chairs the committee.
“The committee was also informed that Zesa experienced challenges with the billing system in Harare and western regions resulting in erroneous bills,” read the report that has been tabled in Parliament. The majority of citizens have endured the agony of receiving estimated bills most of the time.”
From public hearings the committee conducted, it was revealed that there was no correlation between the charges and services rendered. The committee said it emerged that consumers who had gone for days without electricity due to faults in their system continued to receive high bills every month.
“For example, one lady in Cowdray Park, Bulawayo, during one of the meetings stated that while she was away in South Africa for three months after having settled her bills and locked the house, upon return she found a US$500 bill awaiting her despite the house being uninhabited.
“The lady informed the committee that efforts to get Zesa to rectify that had not yielded any results,” reads the report. The committee said the public was against Zesa’s monopoly in providing electricity.
“Due to this monopoly, Zesa is operating in an exploitative manner, hence there is need to put concerted effort to attract interested investors to come in and compete with Zesa inasfar as electricity generation and distribution is concerned,” the legislators said. They recommended that Zesa should partner a private company to improve service delivery.
The committee said there was need for infrastructure sharing in the transmission of power. It was also observed that the power utility did not adhere to its loadshedding schedule amid allegations of selective application of the system. The report said load shedding impacted negatively on productive sectors including farming and industry.
The committee said load shedding had also affected the health sector in relation to the HIV and Aids patients who required to take their medication at stipulated times after meals. “The public also complained that the power cuts are forcing the general populace to eat cold food, exposing them to health problems.
“In some cases, children go to school either after eating cold food or on empty stomachs as parents find it difficult to buy the alternatives means to cook food for them. In all the areas visited by the committee, the public pointed out that Zesa was traumatising them, causing them a lot of stress and high blood pressure by its poor business practice in its service delivery to the nation,” reads the report.
The committee recommended that Government buildings should be switched off at night to save power. It also said the Government was supposed to subsidise electricity bills for the senior citizens who are 65 years and above. The committee said streetlights should be converted to solar and wanted the issuance of prepaid meters expedited.