For these past couple of weeks, Zimbabwe’s power utility ZESA has been on everyone’s lips and minds thanks to up to 20 hours of blackouts in a lot of parts of the country. The company has been working round the clock to deflect blame and try and find a solution to these powercuts that have made a large section of the population angry. The latest attempt to deflect blame has been the revelation that ZESA is owed about $20 billion ZWL by members of the public who have not paid their bills.

People would (use) as much electricity as they wanted and would not pay up. For your information, ZESA is owed about $14 billion right now.

ZESA is not getting any funding from the government for its operations. It is a company that is supposed to run on its own just like any other company.

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It is supposed to buy equipment (such as) vehicles that are used when attending to faults.

They are supposed to procure fuel and are not getting forex because many people are paying in Zimbabwe dollars.

ZESA is supposed to pay its workers. You might have heard that there is a lot of brain drain that took place at ZESA and a lot of professionals left this country and went as far as UK and Australia and ZESA is supposed to pay its workers adequately – all that is not happening because ZESA is owed a lot of money by consumers.

All these units that we are using at Hwange need revamping, they are very old and need rehabilitation but there is no money because ZESA is owed more than (14) billion dollars.

Deputy Energy and Power Development Minister Magna Mudyiwa

This is a condemnation of ZESA and the government

I am sure when the deputy minister was speaking these words she though they were some sort of justification-a way to exonorate her government and ZESA’s roles in the difficult situation we face. It is actually the opposite. This is hard proof of the sort of incompetence that has driven us to spent hours in the dark. How so you ask? Well let’s us quickly look at the arguements she gives for this mess:

  • She says the power utility is owed billions. The bulk of Zimbabweans have been on prepaid meters for ages. ZESA had a plan to collect money by deducting whatever you spent on power to go towards your debts when the switchover was made. These days you cannot buy electricity if you have legacy debts as the entire money goes towards those debts. So there is a mechanism that allows ZESA to forcibly collect that debt. The truth is that connected bigwigs are the only ones not paying their debts. Government higher ups are not being disconnected because they are connected. Why are people owing billions not being disconnected is a mystery.
  • That legacy debt was probably worth billions of USD at some point, thanks to wanton government printing and currency inaptitude that is now a mere US$20 million. A couple of more stupid Statutory Instruments by people not versed in basic economic theory and that entire debt could be barely worth a dollar some day.
  • Thanks to the currency crisis we pay for electricity in ZWL which is inadequate and not great when it comes to Capital Expenditure that is needed to make ZESA viable. They should be forcefully engaging with their colleague the inept Minister of Finance who keeps singing himself praises and saying everything is fine.
  • The Units at Hwange did not suddenly go past their sellby date. We have had the same goverment for four decades. They were there when those units were built and commissioned in the 1980s. Why did they not adequately plan for their upgrade and refurbishment? Telling us Hwange Units are old and outdated is a sign of derilition of duty not some magic answer that makes it go away
  • Again thanks to economic mismanagement by the very same government we are seeing unprecedented brain drain. The Finance Minister claims we don’t have problems in this area but the deputy Minister is saying we do. Which is it?

The explanations proferred by ZESA on the current power crisis show a government that is out of touch with both its people and reality. You cannot harp about how well everything is going according to plan in one breath and say the opposite the next moment. How can we have 20 hour load shedding caused by a crumbling power infrastructure kana zvinhu zvakarongeka?