ZESA Disconnects Mutare, Chipinge Town Councils
20 October 2019
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By A Correspondent- Power utility Zesa recently cut power supplies to Mutare City Council and Chipinge Town Council in a bid to recover several millions of dollars owed by the two local authorities.

Mutare City and Chipinge Town Council owe Zesa over $2 million and $1 million, respectively.

The local authorities’ representatives confirmed the disconnections which led to erratic water supplies in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Mutare city council spokesperson Mr Spren Mutiwi said they have since submitted a payment plan to the power utility.

“It is true that ZESA had disconnected us due to a debt worth $2,1 million. It was a legacy debt that was accumulated from 2017 going backwards.

“Our electricity was disconnected for two days, on Saturday and Sunday, but the situation returned to normalcy after engaging Zesa on Monday.

“We had a fruitful meeting with them and we agreed on a payment plan. The payment plan allows us to pay our debt as well as the current amount,” said Mr Mutiwi.

He admitted that their operations were disrupted during the power blackout.

“As council we are one of Zesa’s big clients, and we depend on them for power because most of our operations need electricity. Some operations were affected as a result of the power shut down,” said Mr Mutiwi.

He said going forward council will stop paying electricity bills for those renting council properties to cut costs.

“One of the things that increased our debt was the issue of tenants whose electricity bills council was responsible for, but going forward we will not be responsible for the payment.

“They will pay directly to Zesa as we can no longer afford to subsidise them,” said Mr Mutiwi.

“We cannot blame Zesa for disconnecting us, it is their mandate to generate revenue. As an authority we are also collecting revenue from our clients, including Zesa.”

Zesa last week also disconnected the cash-strapped Chipinge Town Council main water station at Bangazani Dam in a bid to compel them to settle the $1 million debt.

Chipinge went dry for three days without water. Water was only restored after Zesa and the council hammered a deal yesterday.

The council attributed the ballooning debt to Zesa’s recent tariff hike by over 400 percent and failure by the residents to pay rates.

Previously, the council was paying $24,000 per month, which has sharply risen to $84 000 a month. Council chairperson Mr Zivanai Nyakuchena said revenue collection was dwindling with only 30 percent of residents paying on time.

“ZESA disconnected Chipinge Town Council’s Bangazani pump house because we owe them over $1 million. We are only receipting $44 000 per month, a figure which is low to generate water. We are facing challenges in buying chemicals.  The chemicals are being charged using the parallel market rate.

“Council has engaged Zesa and it has been agreed that the current monthly bill of $80 000 be paid to enable re-connection. Therefore, those owing council rates must pay,” he said.

In another development, the council has lost newly installed solar streets lights worth thousands of dollars due to vandalism and theft.

Each solar street light costs $14,000. Chipinge town engineer Mr Paul Mlauzi said no arrests have been made.

“The council is in the process of installing solar street lights in town and suburbs but the efforts are being militated by vandalism and theft. We had installed 30 solar street lights, but six were vandalised and stolen on October 14,” he said.-