Energy Minister Elton Mangoma has ordered the state-run Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to disconnect power supplies to all defaulting customers, including senior government officials and lawmakers owing the power utility a combined US$450 million.
Mangoma said some households have not paid power bills since the dollarization of the economy in 2009, a situation that has plunged the electricity supplier into a financial crisis, the Herald newspaper reported.
Mangoma was quoted Thursday as saying all defaulters will be disconnected and forced to pay a 25 percent re-connection fee of the total balance.
Mozambique recently threatened to pull the plug on Zimbabwe over an $80 million debt while some state officials, legislators and ministers owed the power utility thousands of dollars.
Parliamentary Energy Committee member Moses Mare told VOA that the state power utility should heed Mangoma’s call in order to boost its power generation capacity.
Bulawayo resident Lucky Moyo said ZESA should first target top government officials before disconnecting ordinary citizens.
Like many parastatals, the power utility is deep in debt, owing among its creditors Mozambique's Cabora Bassa and international finance houses up to US$800 million.
Mangoma’s directive follows complaints by the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy that top government officials owed millions in unpaid electricity bills but were getting away unscathed while ordinary people had their supplies cut off for non-payment.
The government owes ZESA US$19 million while some officials are said to be owing as much as between US$20,000 and US$145,000 each.
For perspective VOA's Tatenda Gumbo turned to Combined Harare Residents Association director Mfundo Mlilo and lawmaker Simba Mudarikwa, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy.
Mudarikwa said Mangoma’s move is commendable, adding all ZESA customers regardless of their standing in society must be held accountable.
Mlilo commented that though payments should be made, the government must change the conditions for payments.