Bulawayo residents with outstanding electricity bills have accused Zesa of switching them off permanently after misleading them into believing the exercise was just meant to facilitate installation of pre-paid meters.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (Bupra) programmes and advocacy manager Emmanuel Ndlovu last week wrote to Zesa general manager for western region, Lovemore Chinaka, accusing the power utility of deceit.
“While Bupra welcomes the metering exercise as a solution to the problems that have been faced by residents due to Zesa’s billing system over the last few years, the association believes that the power utility is being inconsiderate by disconnecting residents,” Ndlovu said.
“For starters, the monies that residents owe Zesa were accrued during periods characterised by rampant load shedding.
“Bupra believes that the load shedding was not matched by the reduction in bills for Zesa customers with load limiters in February 2011.
Bupra thus calls upon your organisation to refrain from disconnecting residents with arrears in the process of installing pre-paid meters in households with load limiters.”
Ndlovu said Zesa should agree payment terms with defaulters instead of switching power off.
Zesa is owed $400 million by its consumers countrywide. Bupra said the power utility must come up with better ways of recovering the money.
“For instance instead of blocking residents with outstanding bills from purchasing electricity units, the parastatal could put in place a system that allows residents to clear their bills while concurrently purchasing electricity units,” Ndlovu said.
“Bupra believes that all residents, to the extent possible, should have access to electricity, which in an urban setting such as Bulawayo, is a fundamental component of their livelihoods.”
Efforts to contact Chinaka for comment were fruitless as his phone went unanswered.
Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma is on record as saying Zesa will disconnect all defaulting customers, as the power utility sought to settle $80 million it owes Hydro Cahorra Basa of Mozambique.