6 June 2012

Zimbabwe: ZESA Acquires 10 000 Pre-Paid Meters

ZESA Holdings has acquired 10 000 pre-paid meters as it prepares to roll out a pilot project for the much awaited prepaid system.

The prepaid system is expected to establish an efficient billing system.

The power utility is expected to receive 24 000 more pre-paid meters this week from four foreign companies contracted to supply the meters.

Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri yesterday confirmed the development.

"We were supposed to have rolled out our pilot project on June 1 but there were delays," he said.

"We are now happy that we have acquired 10 000 meters from Landis and Gear, a foreign company that specialises in meters.

"This means that we are now able to start our project as we now will have 34 000 prepaid meters including those coming from the four companies that we signed contracts with."

Eng Chinembiri said the public will be informed of the areas where the meters for the pilot project will be installed.

"If all goes well, it means the meters will be officially introduced in the system soon and everyone will have the chance to own a prepaid meter," said Eng Chinembiri.

"It is good that we first do our tests before availing the project to the public."

Eng Chinembiri said prepaid meters will improve the power utility's billing system.

"A lot of consumers were complaining and to us the pre-payment system is the way to go as we solve the issue of consumption and bills," he said.

Zesa's billing system is based on estimates, a situation that has seen consumers refusing to settle their debts.

The situation has also seen the power utility failing to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars owed by consumers who argue that Zesa has a poor debt management system.

Zesa has no clear debt collection strategy apart from the unpopular power disconnections.

A poor debt management system has also seen Zesa struggling to settle foreign debts. Domestic and commercial electricity consumers owe Zesa about US$550 million.

Harare Residents' Trust spokesperson Mr Precious Shumba said while they welcomed the new pre-payment system, Zesa should focus on increasing power generation capacity.

He said accurate meter readings should start after Zesa corrected residents' high bills based on estimates.

"Load shedding has affected every sector and that is why the focus should be on power generation capacity.

"Prepaid meters are a trap to residents who owe the power utility disputed bills, as Zesa has not said how they wish to recover the ballooning debts, without accurate meter readings.

"They are attempting to cover up for their corruption. Before prepaid meters, Zesa should first re-calculate residents' owings, once they are correct they begin accurate meter readings," he said.

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