Harare – The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) has alleged that 95 of the country’s almost 100 parastatals are not paying for their electricity, a situation which they claim has crippled operations of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa).
Speaking at a discussion forum on the proposed increase of tariffs by Zesa in Harare on Thursday, ZNCC chief executive Chris Mugaga said power increases were not the solution to the problems bedeviling the country’s power utility, adding that Zesa should follow up on defaulting customers.
“Politicians and government are reluctant to pay. I can tell you that 95 of the 97 parastatals in the country believe that they should use electricity for free. The US1 billion owed to Zesa is mostly by parastatals, government, and local authorities.
“Government thinks that we can solve the problem by increasing tariffs, but we think the problems are a result of maladministration and corruption. Business is calling for the downsizing of the workforce,” he said.
Mugaga said government was reluctant to force powerful politicians and those politically connected to pay for their services, adding that government should also consider bringing in independent power producers.
It was difficult for business to create employment if they did not have enough electricity. If Zesa effectively collected what it was owed by consumers it would save enough to sustain itself and also develop infrastructure.
“Zesa is failing to collect their dues, but honestly if they are owed that much and we buy electricity from Eskom for 13 cents, it’s a lot of money that. If we saved that money, it could go a long way in alleviating some of our challenges. We are saying we cannot create employment without electricity.”
Mugaga said companies already had a burden of other costs and they could not even afford even a one cent increment.
“Companies are retrenching people everyday because of high costs but Zesa are paying the lowest paid worker almost US3000. They are paying workers high salaries not earned by workers in other sectors and we as business are saying they should actually reduce the tariffs instead of increasing them,” he said.
An official of the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory (Zera), only identified as Chitoro, said they would first look at the costs of Zesa and see if it was necessary for them to hike the tariffs.
“Before we approve the hike, we ask them to tell us all of their costs, from water, labour, administration, and any other costs. We also take into consideration the view gathered during the consultation meetings held with consumers,” he said.
He dispelled suspicions that the contributions made during the consultation meetings were not considered as they were only a formality.