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Zimbabwe Power Utility's Prepaid Meter Billing Setbacks Spark Public Anger

  • Gibbs Dube

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
Some Bulawayo and Harare residents say they are confused by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority’s pre-paid meter billing system.

They fear they are being overcharged by the state entity, which is struggling to settle a $500 million debt.

A number of consumers told VOA Studio 7 that the billing system is so complicated that it is difficult to know how much electricity they are buying. As a result, some have stopped cooking traditional foods that need a lot of time to prepare, as they cannot be sure they will have exhausted their pre-paid units before they’ve finished cooking.

One area of confusion is the basic cost of a unit of electricity.According to ZESA, pre-paid meter users pay 2 cents per unit for the first 50 kilowatts while those who consume between 51 and 300 kilowatts are charged 11 cents per unit. Anything above 300 kilowatts attracts a charge of 15 cents per unit. The flat ZESA tariff is being replaced nationwide by the prepaid meter system.

But Ambrose Sibindi of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association said some residents recently spent $30 to obtain 292 units, but others received only 190 units for the same amount.

Mr. Sibindi said he has received many complaints about this and other areas of confusion.

Harare Ward 13 councillor Peter Moyo said the problems may be linked to ZESA’s attempts to recover debts from residents.

The $500 million ZESA debt accrued due to a decade-long economic downturn which eased after the adoption of multiple foreign currencies in 2009.

Energy Minister Elton Mangoma said ZESA and the government are aware of people’s concerns.