By Tendai Kamhungira
Top Zanu PF officials are being dragged to court by State power utility Zesa Holdings (Zesa) over unpaid electricity bills.
The cases illustrate how government officials, previously shielded from insolvency courts under the previous Robert Mugabe regime, are now under pressure by Zesa which is keen to secure payment of dues that would earlier have been all but impossible to recover.
This comes as Mnangagwa is overhauling a system that barred parastatals from demanding payments from top government officials, crimping growth in the economy.
It seems Zesa is leveraging the new government’s trajectory to recover dues much more effectively.
Mnangagwa has promised zero tolerance in his government’s push to punish corruption that stifled economic growth under his predecessor’s disastrous reign.
Under the Mugabe regime, Zesa had conveniently ignored the ballooning electricity debts by bigwigs, who were stratified under the so-called “sensitive customers.”
The Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC) has told Parliament that it was losing tens of millions of dollars in unpaid debts.
The power company’s authorities on Friday told the Daily News on Sunday they needed more time to come up with a comprehensive list of the defaulters.
Over the past few months, several Zanu PF officials have been hauled before the courts as Zesa moves to recover what it is owed.
Only last month, Zanu PF politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi was dragged to the High Court for failing to pay $327 481 owed to ZETDC.
The power company is seeking to compel the former Defence minister to settle the electricity bill in respect of his Ulva Farm.
Through its lawyers Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners, the power utility issued summons to the former minister on September 13, 2018, claiming Sekeramayi had refused and or neglected to settle the electricity bill despite numerous requests to do so.
“The defendant (Sekeramayi) is indebted or liable to the plaintiff (ZETDC) as at August 31, 2018 in the sum of $327 481,92 being charges in respect of electricity supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant at the latter’s special request and instance in terms of the running electricity supply contract between the two,” the power utility said.
Sekeramayi is not the only bigwig stewing in such a huge bill, as more of his Zanu PF counterparts are battling to settle their own debts too.
In May this year, former Zanu PF Mbare MP Tendai Savanhu was also dragged to the High Court by the power company after he failed to pay $19 000 for electricity supplied to his Eagle Estate Farm, Dam Point, Marondera.
“The defendant (Savanhu) is indebted/liable to the plaintiff (ZETDC) as at 31st March 2018, in the sum of $19 116, 20 being charges in respect of power/electricity supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant at the latter’s special request and instance in terms of the running electricity supply contract between the two in respect of account number 2230575,” the court was told.
During the same month, Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba was also summoned to the High Court by ZETDC in a bid to make him settle a $43 716 electricity bill accumulated at his Watakai Plot 10 in Concession.
Chinotimba’s plot is situated in the Mashonaland Central Province.
Through its lawyers Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners, ZETDC said in accordance with the agreement it entered into with Chinotimba it supplied electricity at his plot but the legislator had reneged in fulfilling the contractual agreement between the parties.
“The defendant (Chinotimba) is liable/indebted to the plaintiff … as at April 19, 2018 in the sum of $43 716.60 being charges for power/electricity supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant at the latter’s special request and instance in terms of the running electricity supply contract between the two, in respect of account number 2286246,” the power utility said in its declaration.
Some of those that have also been dragged to court over the electricity bills include former National Patriotic Front (NPF) leader Ambrose Mutinhiri, who owed the power utility $54 000 at his Newton Farm.
Former Masvingo provincial minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti was also accused of owing ZETDC $133 at his Moria Ranch premise, which is 20 kilometres away from Rutenga along Beitbridge Road in Mwenezi.
Zesagate, one of the biggest scandals to rock the country in more than a decade unearthed by our sister publication the Daily News in 2012, revealed that at a time the power utility was on a nationwide power disconnections campaign against defaulting consumers in domestic, commercial and industrial categories, it had conveniently ignored the bigwigs, who were stratified under the so-called “sensitive customers.”
The named defaulters included legislators from across the political divide in the ruling coalition, judges, provincial governors, ministers and their deputies and permanent secretaries.
Among the highest debtors was former president Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, who owed over $345 000 to Zesa as at December 31, 2011.
The Daily News’ exposé at the time helped to refocus the national agenda on the topic of double standards used to stratify clients and unveiling a nationwide culture of entitlement and blatant refusal by senior officials to pay for electricity supplies. Daily News.