HomeLocal NewsChefs’ bills spark outrage

Chefs’ bills spark outrage

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There is public outcry over damning disclosures Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants and MPs are reportedly bleeding Zesa by refusing to pay electricity bills at their private properties.

Ordinary Zimbabweans from around the country yesterday expressed outrage and condemned their elected representatives and government officials for failing to lead by example.

Angry citizens accused Zesa of double standards by its apparent protection of politicians,while the poor majority were forced to endure blackouts or were switched off for failure to pay small bills.

The NewsDay switchboard was yesterday jammed by calls from people calling for Zesa to take immediate action against huge bill defaulters, especially the rich and powerful.

A motor mechanic from Mambo suburb (Gweru), James Chiseko, said: “I am grappling to pay a $300 bill I owe Zesa after they threatened to cut me off. I negotiated with them until we reached an understanding that I pay at least $200 and then retire the remainder in instalments. It boggles the mind when an individual government official owes over $100 000 and then refuses to pay. Zesa is cutting electricity supplies to poor people to subsidise politicians. Government should stand up to this.”

Just for Children Foundation (Harare) executive director Noma Kasimonje said: “It is very unfair. We have had electricity switched off at one of our children’s homes, but our appeals to Zesa have been ignored. Our bill is just about $4 000, but some ministers have bills running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s very difficult for us to fundraise for even half of our bills because we rely on donors and most of the
money is used to buy food for the children.”

An accountant in Harare, Prince Marodza, had this to say: “The ministers should first settle their bills and when Zesa confirms that they have settled their bills, then they go to the ordinary citizens. If they have the nation’s interests at heart, they (ministers) should be looking at ways to mitigate the situation instead of abusing their positions and making it worse.”

Patricia Mautsi, a self-employed Gweru resident, queried: “Why do politicians make a lot of noise when Zesa cuts off electricity from us when they know very well they are not honouring their own obligations and are in fact giving Zesa the go-ahead to switch us off? Please can policymakers lead by example?”

A Mutare resident from Chikanga suburb, Tellmore Chinorwiwa, said: “This behaviour by ministers exposes the deep-rooted rot in our style of governance. Just prosecute them.”

Robert Mandeya, a lecturer at Mutare Teachers’ College, said: “This is very disturbing. We expect ministers to lead by example. The nation is shocked to learn about such conduct especially when we are battling with serious electricity shortages. Those who suffer are the ordinary citizens and I think the culprits should be named and shamed.”

Edwin Maradza, a tailor in Harare, said: “That clearly shows that they (Zesa) are not concerned at all about the issues affecting ordinary people. They go after individuals who are struggling to make ends meet and punish them for small debts when the real culprits are let off the hook because they hold powerful positions.”

In Bulawayo, Khumbulani Maphosa complained: “What is happening is not fair and it shows that MPs and ministers are selfish and do not have people at heart. The fact that they cannot stand for the people and defend them against Zesa shows they do not have a heart and they only care about themselves.”

Another resident, Daniel Sengwayo, echoed the same sentiments: “What is happening is not right. We are all consumers and we should all be responsible to pay our bills.”

Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma on Monday told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that many senior government officials and politicians had huge electricity bills, and used their influence and 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 allegedly stands at $145 000, and Secretary for Energy and Power Development Justin Mupamhanga ($20 000).

Many government ministers’ bills are said to range between $20 000 and $100 000 each with most of them having been accumulated at their farms, businesses or private homes.

The public outrage came as Mangoma admitted rampant flouting of tender procedures by Zesa and the State Procurement Board.

He said the rot in the awarding of tenders at Zesa had resulted in the first tender process for smart pre-paid meters hitting a snag, adding some vital documents were mysteriously removed, resulting in disqualification of applicants in the first tender process.

“The process to acquire smart pre-paid meters hit several snags and with the first tender process that was done, everybody who put up proposals was disqualified. It was rendered the adjudication had already been done, but there already were some people who were complaining about the results on the basis that some of their vital documents were removed from the tender process,” said Mangoma.

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