Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s strategic buildings have been plunged into darkness after the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) disconnected power over a whopping $21 million debt.
The power utility pulled down the switch on Tower Block and City Hall — the council’s headquarters, following a breach of a payment agreement of $1,2 million per month to clear arrears. Council was switched off last year, but was reconnected in November after agreeing to settle the bill in installments.
Bulawayo mayor Thaba Moyo yesterday confirmed the Zesa disconnections.
“The chamber secretary (Sikhangele Zhou) has told me that we have been disconnected over an outstanding debt. However we urge ratepayers to settle their bills with council so we are able to pay off Zesa,” he said.
“We are going to discuss payment plans with Zesa soon.”
Sources at City Hall told NewsDay council only managed to pay $200 000, $1 million short of what they had promised.
Contacted for comment, Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira promised to issue a statement.
Sources told NewsDay Zesa issued a disconnection notice on Tuesday before they pulled down the plug late towards close of business on Thursday. While Zesa is on a disconnection blitz, the Bulawayo City Council is also turning the heat on defaulters, hordes of households have also been disconnected. A source said although Zesa switched off the local authority, the power utility was also struggling to settle its $2 million for water.
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“But the problem is they owe us only $2 million and we cannot negotiate any deal because our bill is too high. Council is broke to settle the $21 million debt and for now we will go for many months without electricity,” said a council top official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Although council is failing to settle the Zesa bill, it recently bought over 20 top-of-the-range vehicles for managers.
Zesa is owed over $60 million by ratepayers while council has over $70 million locked in unpaid bills, of which the government owes close to $10 million.
Recently Zesa has been switching off ratepayers including VIPs who had accumulated bills ranging between $5 000 and $350 000.
The power utility is also saddled with an $80 million debt, owed to Hydro Cabora Bassa of Mozambique.
President Robert Mugabe and other top officials including Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of State in the President’s Office Didymus Mutasa, State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Information and Manicaland Provincial governor Christopher Mushowe also reportedly owe Zesa millions of dollars.