HARARE – Zesa holdings has announced it will begin cutting power bills for domestic consumers today in fulfilment of an earlier promise to help ease the plight of their customers — but will do so in phases.
This move has been welcomed by the many consumers struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economic environment we live in.
A similar exercise was implemented by councils when government ordered them to scrap bills accumulated from dollarisation in 2009 until July 31 2013 when harmonised elections were held.
Fixed phone line company TelOne also cancelled a total of $80 million domestic debts for its customers.
While many will welcome the slashing of all these debts, there is no doubt that operations of these organisations will be affected negatively.
Despite Zesa boss Josh Chifamba assuring the public that the scrapping of the bills will not affect the operations of the utility company, it will be no relief to consumers who have been going through a tough time due to a serious load shedding schedule, leaving them with only a few hours of power.
With a shortfall of about 1 000 MW in its generation capacity, Zesa has been relying on its old power stations like Kariba hydro power station which was built in the 1960s and Hwange, built from 1976 and only completed after independence in 1986 when Zesa was formed.
The country’s power problems have impacted negatively on farming and industry, leaving some industries with no options but to use generators which are costly.
The problem of power shortages, however, will not be resolved overnight as it takes an average of four to seven years to build a new power station.
It also requires millions if not billions of dollars to implement new generation capacity.
With government looking at the short term measure of relieving consumers’ bills and with the country’s economy seemingly continuing to dip, Zesa, councils and TelOne will soon be faced with the same problems — people failing to pay their bills.
Already information is that residents have started accumulating council debts again.
We need to solve our economic problems and get people employed so they can pay their bills.
If Zesa operates as a business, we should begin to see cost recovery tariffs that will allow the utility to maintain equipment, plan new power projects and extend power lines to the rural population.
With only about 35 percent of Zimbabweans able to use power, the rest of the country continues to live in the dark and use wood at unsustainable levels.
Zimbabwe’s power needs have always been premised on the availability of electricity, but it will take many years before we can have enough electricity to meet our needs.