20 March 2017

Tanzania: Zanzibar Starts Settling Power Debt After Magufuli Directive

Zanzibar has started repaying its debt to the Tanzania Electric Company Limited (Tanesco), Energy and Minerals minister Sospeter Muhongo has revealed.

In a statement after a meeting between President John Magufuli and Zanzibari President Ali Mohamed Shein at State House Saturday, Prof Muhongo also assured the Isles' residents that there won't be any blackout.

The meeting was also attended by acting Tanesco managing director Kahitwa Bishaija.

Only five days remain to the expiry of the 14-day grace period that Tanesco gave defaulters to pay up.

Early this month, President Magufuli directed Tanesco to cut power to the Isles over a Sh127 billion (KSh5.8 billion) debt.

Reacting to the surprise directive, the Zanzibar Minister of State in the Second Vice-President's Office, Mr Mohammed Aboud, said plans were underway for the Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (Zeco) to clear its outstanding debts with Tanesco.

But the Zanzibari President, Dr Shein, told reporters in the Isles recently that he did not believe that any "serious government" could make such threats.

"The debt has been there for more than 20 years now; it was there when I served in the Union government as Vice President... but if power is indeed going to be disconnected then we are ready to go back in time and use oil lamps," the Zanzibar President was quoted as saying upon his arrival to Abeid Aman Karume International Airport from Turkey.

President Magufuli's directive came four months after the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) gave the government a six-month ultimatum to pay tens of billions of shillings owed to Tanesco.

The total debt was then Sh125 billion, with Zeco and the Union government owing Sh85 billion and Sh40 billion, respectively.

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