By Nqobile Tshili
Electricity consumers have for the past three days been struggling to buy power tokens with the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) blaming an “overwhelmed system”.
Scores of citizens took to social media between Monday and yesterday to vent frustrations over failure to buy tokens while multitudes crowded ZETDC banking halls to buy power.
Long winding queues characterised the power utility company’s Bulawayo premises as desperate consumers converged to buy tokens.
The public were not even observing social distancing measures to mitigate against the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus.
Consumers said they were forced to disregard physical distancing measures claiming that ZETDC officials were letting people jump queues during the chaotic scenes.
Electricity token vendors exploited desperate consumers by putting mark-ups of more than 30 percent per purchase.
Residents said it did not make sense that the utility could claim that its servers were overwhelmed, when they have been buying tokens with ease at the start of every month.
“What has changed now? We always buy power online but at the moment when you try to buy tokens via Ecocash, you will receive a message saying your transaction has been sent for processing but you do not get a recharge token. It’s my second day queuing for electricity as I no longer have power at home.
“I’m afraid that if I don’t get it today my refrigerated meat will go bad. Zesa should solve this problem,” said Mr John Mlilo, from Cowdray Park suburb, who was in a queue outside a banking hall at the corner of Fife Street and 10th Avenue.
Another power consumer Mr Nyasha Tawonizvi said he had been in the queue since 10am, but still had not bought tokens at 3pm.
He said spending the day in a queue was disruptive as he had to abandon some business just to buy power.
Mrs Sihle Mguni said she came to buy tokens at the start of the month as she believed that it was cheaper at the start of the month.
“I bought electricity units for $100 just last week and they were finished in a short space of time. So, I was told that if I come to buy between the first and fifth of the month the tokens will be cheaper. That is why I decided to join the queue to get a better deal,” said Mrs Mguni.
The news crew had to explain to her that electricity tokens were not necessarily cheaper at the beginning of the month but when consumers do not exceed 200 kilowatts units in a given calendar month.
The power company’s 200kWh is subsidised by Government but if consumers exceed that limit in a month, electricity becomes more expensive.
Some people took their frustrations to social media platforms, prompting a reaction from Power and Energy Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi who said he would engage ZETDC over the matter today.
“I have received many complaints from the public on Zesa payment platforms. On Thursday I will have a discussion with them on the matter,” tweeted Adv Chasi.
In a statement, ZETDC said its system was overwhelmed by the number of people buying electricity. “ZETDC advises that delays being experienced by customers are due to high volumes of token purchases during the beginning of the month and are putting pressure on the system, the position that we are in the process of addressing,” read the statement.
“ZETDC further advises customers that the lifeline tariff is enjoyed once a month when they make the first token purchase of units any day during any calendar month, therefore it is not true that electricity is cheaper when purchases are done within the first five days of the month.” The Chronicle