Zesa bills: Some are more equal than others

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In the last few weeks, the nation woke up to shocking revelations that some fatcats in the corridors of power including notable figures such as Manicaland governor Christopher Mushohwe and Energy and Power Development secretary Justin Mupamhanga have colossal Zesa bills ranging from $20 000 to $145 000.

Mupamhanga is the secretary of Zesas parent ministry and his reluctance to pay his bill is probably gives a lucid insight into the attitude that ministers have towards governance in this country.

This is scandalous and a very clear sign that the adage made popular by George Orwell in his 1945 classic satire Animal Farm that some animals are more equal than others still holds true today in Zimbabwe.

A lot of ordinary people in the ghettos genuinely struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis will testify that they have had electricity switched off from their homes for bills that are as little as a $100, while some people whose bills run into several thousands of dollars have continued to enjoy the comfort and ease that electricity avails.

In fact, some people have been disconnected for owing amounts as little as $30 and $40 while some government officials continue to enjoy uninterrupted supply of power despite going for months, if not years, for free.

Mupamhanga probably gave a nod for the disconnection of electricity to thousands of Zimbabweans while he owes the utility too. Such people need not occupy these offices because they have shown a shocking lack of the requisite moral integrity.

What this basically implies is that a senior government official continued to access power at his home, company premises and farm while others had to endure the darkness at their home in Mufakose or Kuwadzana.

Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangomas confirmation this week that Zesa has intensified efforts to force indebted consumers to pay up or present credible payment plans or risk disconnection have come rather late as some ordinary people have already been disconnected while those in power are still enjoying access to electricity despite sitting on mountains of piling debts.

This is a litmus test for the ministry, whose billing system in itself is not credible, for it has to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it means business.

In some parts of Harare and Chitungwiza, for instance, customers literally experience load-shedding every day for not less than 12 hours a day yet their bills are not different from those who have greater access to power.

This is the reason why many people have been reluctant to pay the bills.

Those who have raised concerns have been literally roughed up by Zesa officials bent on making them pay regardless of their grievances.

While it would be ideal for people to use the pre-paid meters that will allow them to properly manage their electricity consumption, many people are not even aware of how to access these meters. In fact, Zesa officials seem reluctant to furnish consumers with such information, and customers who have inquired about them are simply told they are not available anymore. Why the secrecy?

On pre-paid meters, Mangoma said Zesa had so far installed all 10 000 meters in its possession and subsequently issued contracts to other successful bidders to install other meters over a period of 18 months.

Zesa has a moral obligation to spruce up its operations, especially the billing system, and save consumers the trouble of having to go and enquire about the amounts they are owing because they did not receive their bill, or because they came late perhaps three or four months later, if not more.

If Zesa was efficient and more professional in executing its mandate, I am sure people would not have to be arm-twisted into paying for the services. People naturally resist paying for a service they do not get.

Mangoma has a tall order to ensure that he fulfils his threat to switch off ministers and senior government officials because failure to do so will only precipitate greater resistance from ordinary citizens because justice demands that there should be fairness in the treatment of all customers.

While Zesa has blamed its failure to deliver top-of-the-shelf services on customers reluctance to pay what they owe, but they need to appreciate that putting their house in order and ensuring professionalism and efficiency plays a key role in attracting a favourable response from customers.

Expecting customers to settle questionable bills at a time when load-shedding has become the order of the day is expecting a bit too much.

Kindly send your feedback to pchidavaenzi@newsday.co.zw.