EDITOR – Ordinary Zimbabweans are reaping the bleak harvest of the 2013 populist election promises just four months after the July poll.
Despite the fact that most people have yet to see the debt relief promised, at the behest of Zanu PF, by Zesa, Zinwa and local municipalities, the impact is crippling our everyday lives and ability to function normally.
Before the July 31st election, power cuts had declined to as little as six to twelve hours a week spread out over three days, in short, manageable time frames.
Four months after the elections however, power cuts have increased massively to an average 60 hours a week with at least three days in which electricity is off for 15 hours at a time.
Extended power cuts have exacerbated an already dire situation for businesses.
Having to purchase diesel to run generators leaves businesses with no option but to increase prices to cover their costs thereby reducing their income even further at a time crippled by cash shortages.
For institutions and domestic residences, the power cuts are causing a serious health hazard; food in fridges and freezers is subjected to erratic, varying temperatures and the risk of diarrhoea and food poisoning is a daily danger.
Because of election promises made by Zanu PF, Zesa say they have written off $80 million worth of debt owed by commercial (A2) farmers and a further $90 million for other consumers.
When Zanu PF promised debt relief to electricity consumers it almost immediately resulted in the situation we now find ourselves in, regardless of seasonal maintenance at both Hwange and Kariba.
Equally inevitable was the news last week that Zesa have applied for an increase in electricity tariffs from 9,8 cents to 11,48 cents per kw/h.
That Zesa plans to increases tariffs four months after debt write-off cannot be coincidental; how else can they survive the loss of 170 million dollars?
Zesa can barely cope now, taking days to react to multiple faults resulting after every rain storm. Their years of lack of maintenance are having a ripple effect everywhere. Illegal crops planted right up to Zesa poles has weakened them, annual fires have scorched them and they lean perilously, ready to subside in the smallest of showers.
Tel One must be in an equally precarious position following their implementation of populist election promises.
Tel One’s banking halls are empty this Christmas after their recent crediting of customer accounts. Tel One have written off $79 million of customer debt.
Then there’s the election promise of furthering empowerment and indigenisation which has recently seen the announcement that all foreign-owned shops, including those run by Chinese and Nigerians, must cede 51 percent of their businesses or close down on January 1, 2014.
Days after this announcement, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi tried to undo the tsunami of uncertainty that had resulted by saying that African businesspeople, such as Nigerians, wouldn’t be affected because: “it’s Africa for Africans going forward.”
Minister Mzembi went on to say there was no need to be xenophobic about indigenisation. But this is a contradiction in itself because xenophobia means a dislike of foreigners and forcing people to cede 51 percent of their businesses because they are considered foreigners unless they are indigenous black Zimbabweans, is surely xenophobic.
The harvest from the 2013 election promises is dismal: foreign companies scared to re-open in January; Zesa with a loss of $160 million; Tel One with a loss of $79 million; Zinwa and local municipalities with losses so substantial that customers are lucky to get two hours of water a day and most municipal affairs have all but come to a standstill.