Blessings Chidakwa and Freedom Mupanedemo
ZESA Holdings has embarked on a nationwide blitz on defaulters, including high-profile businesspeople, farmers and politicians, and has blacklisted them so that they cannot open new accounts using different addresses.
ZESA spokesman Mr Fullard Gwasira said the power utility had embarked on a cocktail of measures to recover its money, including disconnections, litigation and blocking defaulters from “taking their bad practice elsewhere”.
The power utility is owed over $1 billion by domestic, mining, industrial and other users.
“The power utility is taking various measures that include blacklisting, installation of prepayment meters for domestic consumers and small institutions, installation of smart meters for medium and large power users that consume 100 amps and above.
“We are also resorting to disconnections and litigation against such defaulters to recover the revenue that is locked with them,” he said.
On blacklisting, Mr Gwasira said: “Blacklisting is part of credit control options in use by all businesses in an attempt to flag out customers with a deviant behaviour from taking their bad practice of not honouring debts by opening accounts elsewhere. It is not a preserve of ZESA.”
Mr Gwasira said the blitz excludes critical service providers that offer basic service delivery, including local authorities.
“Disconnections are not affecting critical service providers like defaulting municipalities, but we are engaging them on the legal front to ensure that they pay for their consumption of electricity,” he said.
Mr Gwasira encouraged consumers to settle their bills for ZESA to efficiently provide service by ensuring infrastructure maintenance and procurement of adequate inputs such as coal for electricity generation.
He said the power utility would also be in a position to pay for power imports and ensure a good credit rating with its external suppliers of electricity.
Zesa has since descended on small scale miners in Midlands Province, switching off power to those in arrears while demanding full settlement of debt in forex.
Miners who spoke to The Herald accused the power utility of ambushing them, a development which they said have stalled production at most of the mines.
Said Mr Trynos Toziva who is chairperson of Small Scale Miners Association (Silobela chapter): “What the power utility has done is not fair, they have ambushed us and switched off power at most of the mines. They should have at least notified us and gave us time to make a payment plan since they now demand payment in US dollars from us.
“We can’t raise the required money because they just came and switched off our mines and I have checked, they have done this in the province as a whole.”
Mr Toziva said they have since written a letter to ZEAS provincial manager Engineer King Dube appealing for them to accept a payment plan from the miners.
“What they have done is unfair so we have written a letter of complaint to the regional manager, they have stalled business and production in the mining which is driving this economy,” he said.
Another affected small-scale miner, Mr Baron Nago of Shurugwi, said a majority of them we affected by the exercise.
“There is little business in terms of production the whole of Shurugwi since Monday when ZESA officials moved in to switch off all mines in arrears while demanding full payment in forex. It was a surprise move to many. We contribute a lot in the gold output but we were just ambushed and everything is on a standstill,” he said.