LAST week the Administrative Court confirmed what most Zimbabweans have been complaining about for years — power utility Zesa’s electricity prices are not only too high, they are also illegal.
Report by Dingilizwe Ntuli
Zesa was taken to court by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) which complained about the arbitrary electricity tariff increases saying they threatened to bankrupt companies that were already struggling to emerge from the effects of a decade-long economic meltdown.
In a landmark ruling Administrative Court president Herbert Mandeya said Zesa subsidiaries must revert to the 2009 charges as the current tariffs are illegal.
The ruling means Zesa is going to suffer huge financial losses as its revenue generation scam has now been exposed.
Higher tariffs were behind the increase in its revenue. Zesa claims it is owed more than US$450 million in unpaid electricity charges by various businesses and households.
Ordinary people are also complaining about Zesa charges which appear unilateral and inflated as the power utility has failed to explain its tariff regimes which have left most businesses and households in arrears despite having to endure frequent power cuts for non-payment and outages because of load-shedding.
The Zimbabwe’s Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC), the anti-monopoly body, also exposed Zesa for charging customers disproportionate bills while offering poor and unreliable service.
Zesa has been facing increasing public anger over the years as consumers complained that they were paying too much for electricity.
With most formally employed workers and civil servants earning an average of US$500, Zesa’s exorbitant electricity bills are way beyond their reach as some run into thousands of US dollars a month to individual households a month.
These charges are not even based on meter readings, but some ridiculous estimates which the utility cannot explain.
While we acknowledge that there is an energy crisis in Zimbabwe and that all business and household consumers should make energy efficiency a priority, it is essential for Zesa to operate in a manner that its tariff increases do not hurt economic growth and job creation and impact household budgets.
Electricity prices have been on an acceptably upward trajectory for the past three years and unjustifiably so, as ruled by the Administrative Court.
Consumers are not resisting paying reasonable amounts for the electricity they use, but it must be based on actual usage and fair tariffs, and not Zesa’s wild estimates.
Zesa’s madness had now got to a point where workers on lower salaries and pensioners are unable to afford these monthly bills.
The power utility’s greed seems to have overtaken the need for consumers to survive while it illegally raked in millions upon millions.
Essential service providers like Zesa should never be allowed to pass on their incompetency in the form of exorbitant charges to consumers.
How does Zesa justify splashing out huge salaries and bonuses for its executives while ordinary households are being squeezed by high electricity tariffs? Why should a management team which is failing to protect consumers and businesses from high electricity prices be rewarded anyway?
Ordinary Zimbabweans cannot be expected to reward Zesa executives for poor planning and financial mismanagement while bearing the burden of high electricity prices. Consumers have been ripped off for years, but enough is enough.
Zesa should explain the state of the electricity system, update us on its proposed capital expansion programme, electricity sales and primary energy costs instead of seeking to justify high tariff charges each time it wants to raise salaries and bonuses for its highly incompetent executives.