The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: MPs Seek Exemption On Utility Bills

Photo: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Harare power station.

PARLIAMENTARIANS want to be exempted from paying Zesa utility bills saying they cannot afford the tariffs amid serious fears of disconnections.

Zesa has however, stood firm saying the request was untenable as it would result in consumers subsiding the legislators.

Mberengwa East MP, Cde Makhosini Hlongwane (Zanu-PF), said the power utility should consider either a full or a partial exemption for legislators in light of their poor remuneration.

He said this during a pre-budget seminar for parliamentarians in Victoria Falls.

"Can MPs have an exemption, even a partial exemption from paying electricity? If that is not done, most of them might suffer the embarrassment of having their power disconnected," he said, drawing applause from fellow legislators.

Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba who was a participant on a topic "Measures to Address National Energy," shot down the proposal.

"We do not have that dispensation.

"Tariffs should be cost reflective. When we make that exemption, there have to be transparent otherwise the poor people in high density suburbs might end subsiding the rich in Borrowdale," he said.

Eng Chifamba said legislators might probably consider approaching Finance Minister Tendai Biti with their plight and discuss how Treasury could assist them.

Uzumba MP, Cde Simba Mudarikwa (Zanu-PF), proposed that Zesa debit the money owed by the Grain Marketing Board to cover for unpaid farmers' bills since both of them were State entities.

Eng Chifamba dismissed the proposal since Zesa has its own balance sheet.

Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Hubert Nyanhongo said there was nothing Zesa could do to assist those consumers who had made advance payments for their electricity during the Zimbabwe dollar era but were not credited when the country switched to the multi-currency system.

Gokwe MP, Cde Dorothy Mangami (Zanu-PF), had complained that several people especially farmers had made advance payments covering almost a year but were not credited in the United States dollar terms.

"I want to say tough luck. We don't have replacement in terms of those who had deposited their Zim dollar in advance.

"When we dollarised we lost out everything in Zim dollar, so tough luck for those people," Deputy Minister Nyanhongo said.

On load shedding, Eng Chifamba said there was nothing the power utility could do to avert it until there is sufficient power generation.

He said one way of dealing with load-shedding and billing challenges was the impending pre-paid system.

The Zesa boss was however, quick to say they would be levying 10 percent of money paid for those owing Zesa prior to the commencement of the pre-paid system.

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