BY SILAS NKALA/STEPHEN CHADENGA ZESA Holdings says it has lost millions of dollars worth of infrastructure through vandalism in Zimbabwe’s southern region.
Addressing a virtual debate organised by the National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) and Bulawayo residents on Saturday, Zesa regional manager Lovemore Chinaka said the power utility should not be blamed for vandalised infrastructure.
Bulawayo residents have perennially complained that Zesa takes ages to repair infrastructure after theft of copper cables.
“Vandalism is not of Zesa’s making. Ordinarily, Zesa should move in, do repairs and restore supplies. It has not been able to do that because of lack of capacity as we explained last time,” Chinaka said.
“The sub-economic tariff that Zesa was charging for a long time was one of the reasons why we failed to repair infrastructure. Some residents have made contributions to repair vandalised infrastructure. Zesa does not collect the contributions. The residents go to buy the cables and then Zesa installs them,” he said.
Chinaka also said electricity tariffs were too low. Zesa’s tariffs are regulated and any increases should be justified through consultations with stakeholders.
Bulawayo residents grilled Chinaka on the possibility of involvement of the power utility employees in cable thefts because it is impossible for someone with no knowledge of electricity to steal the cables.
Residents also complained about corruption at Zesa such as the one involving businessman Wicknell Chivayo, who was paid US$5,6 million for the Gwanda solar project by Zesa’s subsidiary, Zimbabwe Power Company, but the project never took off.
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Nacora advocacy and campaign co-ordinator Effie Ncube said Zesa should fulfil its obligation of providing reliable power supplies to the people.
Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) chairperson Howard Choga recently disclosed that ZETDC was owed in excess of $1 billion by commercial and domestic consumers.
Zesa also needs US$2,5 billion to end load-shedding at a time when it is struggling to meet its monthly foreign currency requirements of US$17 million.
Meanwhile, in another discussion in Gweru, Zesa general manager for loss control, Festo Madembo said the power utility had lost US$8 million worth of equipment to vandalism in the past two years.
“In 2020 and 2021, there were 947 and 1 237 cases of vandalism, respectively,” Madembo said last Friday during a resident’s engagement meeting in Gweru.
“In the two years (2020 and 2021), we lost equipment worth US$4 390 000 and US$4 406 000, respectively, to give a total of US$8 796 000 in the past two years,” he said, adding that last year, Zesa lost 288 transformers to vandalism, while 230 people were arrested for theft of electricity equipment and 29 were convicted.
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