Bulawayo residents and businesses have described the proposed increase in power tariffs by 31% with effect from Thursday as unrealistic considering the long hours that consumers endure without electricity.
In a statement last week, the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission (Zerc) said the increase would see the average tariff going up to 9,3 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH) from the current 7,5 cents.
Zerc said the tariff adjustment was meant to assist the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to operate profitably.
“Among the critical issues considered in the tariff adjustment include the need to enable the utilities (from generation to distribution and supply) to recover operating costs and establish a path towards cost reflectivity,” read the statement.
“The adjustment also saw the need to have a tariff that encourages customers to use electricity efficiently and also the need to have a tariff that recognises the current state of the productive sectors.”
In an interview with NewsDay, the chairman of the Bulawayo Residents’ Association, Winos Dube, described the increase as an additional burden on the residents.
“The increase in electricity tariffs is going to be a heavy blow to residents, considering that residents have always complained of already high tariffs coupled with long hours of load-shedding,” he said.
“Residents are currently unable to pay their electricity bills, the effect of the increase will be worse.”
The president of the Matabeleland chapter of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Ruth Labode, said the increase would greatly affect industry.
“The increase in tariffs will automatically increase the cost of output because we are currently complaining that it is too high and issues of load-shedding have greatly impacted on output,” she said.
But, Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira defended the move, saying: “We greatly appreciate the new development because it is important that we strike a balance between the customer, stakeholders and the utility.”
“The new tariff will definitely attract investments in the energy sector because investors want to invest where there is a cost-reflective tariff.”
Tariffs in the region are projected to increase by over 50% in the coming four years and Zimbabwe’s electricity charges are likely to skyrocket, considering that the country relies considerably on power imports.