CABINET ministers, senior civil servants and top Zanu PF officials are bleeding the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) by not paying electricity bills at their private properties, with others owing more than US$200 000.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that before the installation of pre-paid meters on their private properties, which they had initially resisted, most ministers, top civil servants and Zanu PF bigwigs had last paid their electricity bills in 2012.
The bills remained high despite Zesa writing off US$170 million in debts owed by domestic customers, rural farmers and charity organisations in September 2013. This was at a time when the power utility was owed US$700 million by both its domestic and commercial customers.
The debt relief was capped at US$160 per household, for a combined US$90 million of the amount owed. Scrapped off debt for farmers amounted to US$80 million.
As at July last year, Zesa was owed US$400 million, with the major chunk of the debt held by domestic consumers, who owe more than US$300 million and farmers US$70 million.
Some of the ministers owing huge amounts include Christopher Mushohwe (Indigenisation), Chris Mutsvangwa (War Veterans), Oppah Muchinguri (Higher Education), Joel Matiza (Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland East) and Paddy Zhanda (Deputy Agriculture). Recently dismissed ministers with huge bills include Didymus Mutasa, Olivia Muchena, Webster Shamu and Tendai Savanhu.
Of the owing ministers, Zhanda, whose bill is over US$200 000, according to bills seen by the Independent, seems to be one of the few that has been paying his bills regularly for five properties.
However, Zhanda denied this saying he does not owe that kind of money.
Information gathered by this newspaper showed a series of payments by Zhanda for the five properties including farms — US$1 500 on March 21, 2013 for one property, US$3 000 on May 15, 2013, for another, a further US$3 000 on June 3, 2013, for the fourth property and US$10 000 on December 2, 2014, for the fifth property.
While Zhanda is one of the few paying ministers, some last paid in 2012, while others have not bothered to pay at all.
Zhanda, who demanded to know the source of the information, said: “Whoever told you about this should give you the bills to show evidence of what you are saying. As far as I am concerned, it is not true.”
Muchinguri owes more than US$20 500 for electricity supplies to her Highlands home. Her last payment before a pre-paid meter was installed was on August 28 2012. Instalments through the 25% taken when recharging electricity only started on March 10, 2014.
Mushowe owes close to US$13 000 for electricity supplied to his Chisipite home and the last payment of US$2 000 was made on August 19 2012. Deductions, through pre-payment recharges started on November 5, 2013.
Mutsvangwa owes more than US$38 500 for his Kadoma farm and no payments have ever been made to that account.
Asked to comment, Mutsvangwa said: “The farm is a shared infrastructure, but it is no secret that all farmers owe money. We are all making losses, but we are doing our best to pay off our bills. It’s not because ndiri shefu (I am a government minister). All farmers are in debt.”
Matiza owes more than US$20 000, including electricity supplied to his farms and he has also not been paying his bills.
Former minister Muchena has also not been paying her bills. She owes Zesa about US$9 000. Savanhu owes more than US$3 000 for his Glen Lorne home.
Muta sa owes about US$6 000 for is Highlands home and the last payment of US$500 was made on August 10 2012, while Shamu owes more than US$4 000.
Efforts to get a comment from Muchinguri, Mutasa, Muchena, Savanhu, Shamu and Matiza were futile as their phones either went unanswered or they were not reachable. A top Zesa official told the Independent this week that despite the power utility entering into payment plans with ministers, top civil servants and politicians still owed thousands of dollars, particularly for their farms.
“Ministers and those ministers fired in December owe Zesa thousands of dollars. Before the pre-paid meters were installed, these guys never used to pay a cent for the electricity they used,” he said.
“Some were even resisting the pre-paid meters because it forces them to pay cash upfront for usage.”
Zesa chief executive officer Joshua Chifamba refused to comment, saying: “Sorry, I am not going to comment on that”, before hanging up.