Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants and MPs are bleeding the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) dry by refusing to pay electricity bills at their private properties and using political muscle to avoid being switched off.
Some of the “big chefs” reportedly owing large amounts to Zesa include Manicaland governor Christopher Mushohwe, whose outstanding bill is $145 000, and Secretary for Energy and Power Development Justin Mupamhanga ($20 000).
Many government ministers’ bills reportedly range between $20 000 and $100 000 each with most of them having been accumulated at their farms, businesses or private homes.
Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma made the damning disclosures yesterday when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to explain the electricity situation in the country.
He added he now had no choice but to switch off the chefs’ supplies to induce payment.
This came as Zesa embarked on a nationwide exercise to disconnect power supplies to defaulting customers as part of efforts to recover $537 million owed to them by industry and domestic consumers, a move the power utility said would enable it to pay its creditors.
Mangoma said: “We have about $400 million owed by customers and I have agreed with Zesa that we will start disconnecting all Cabinet ministers and MPs who are not paying.
“There are some MPs and ministers who are not paying and we will be switching them off because there are no sacred cows and that is the only
way we can at least stop people from accumulating huge debts to Zesa.”
Committee chairperson Guruve South MP Edward Chindori-Chininga demanded the list of MPs who owed Zesa to be forwarded to Parliament so that “corrective action can be taken”.
“You are accusing MPs of owing Zesa, yet your own ministry owes $30 000 in electricity bills to Zesa, and you are supposed to be the policy person. How do Cabinet ministers make decisions on debt issues owed by the public when they themselves are not paying Zesa?” queried Chindori-Chininga.
Last week, the committee was also told government departments owed Zesa $19 million, but they had not yet been switched off.
Impeccable sources yesterday told NewsDay the debtors’ list included Zanu PF and the two MDC parties’ ministers, senators and MPs.
Committee members quizzed Mangoma to explain why policymakers were failing to honour their obligations after they had crafted a policy to empower Zesa to switch off customers owing as little as $30 for high-density suburbs and $40 for low-density areas.
“I have to warn my colleagues that unless they give clear proposals that are acceptable about how they are going to pay the debts, they are going to be switched off. I am also taking this opportunity to tell MPs who do not sit in Cabinet that they will be switched off,” Mangoma said.
“There is also $100 million owed for electricity imports and the bulk of $90 million is owed to Cahora Bassa in Mozambique, which two weeks ago indicated they wanted to switch us off, but now they have said they will continue as long as we give them a firm proposal of how we are going to reduce the debt. We also have an import debt of $90 million and a debt to Zambia of $70 million,” he added.
In a Press statement last week, Zesa said: “The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company, a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings, advises customers with outstanding bills to pay their bills immediately to avoid the inconvenience of disconnection of supplies. All customers currently in arrears and without an approved payment plan will henceforth be disconnected without further notice.”
Zesa said this would allow them to import more power, leading to a reduction in load-shedding.