Senior Zimbabwean officials, among them President Robert Mugabe and many new black commercial farmers, have opened talks with the country's power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, to see how they can settle their bills, going into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Private media have since the weekend been publishing the names of defaulting senior government officials following a decision by Mozambique's power utility, Hydro Cahora Bassa to cut electricity exports to Zimbabwe.
Their exposure has, however, raised tensions in the rickety government of national unity.
ZESA sources told the VOA that the majority of the ministers have been told to pay 25% of what they owe and settle their bills within six months or risk being switched off completely.
Most cabinet ministers say they want to sell their produce first before settling their huge bills.
President Mugabe and vice president John Nkomo lead the list of defaulters. Other senior government officials owing between $50,000 and $350,000 include Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Minister of State in the President’s Office Didymus Mutasa, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Information Minister Webster Shamu, Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge.
ZESA is struggling to offset a debt of $800 million dollars that includes a $75 million owed to Hydro Cahora Bassa.
Energy Minister Elton Mangoma says he is headed to Mozambique next week for negotiations with Hydro since it reduced exports to Zimbabwe from 200 to 50 megawatts only over non payment of its electricity bill.
The Mozambican power utility maintains. though, that it never switched off Harare.
ZESA spokesman, Fullard Gwasira told VOA's Blessing Zulu the power utility is happy that government officials and other customers have started settling their bills while some are still negotiating payment plans.
Analyst Gladys Hlatyawayo says ZANU-PF ministers must pay up and not try to politicize the issue.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told lawmakers last week that he had settled his $5,000 bill with ZESA, urging colleagues within both the MDC and ZANU-PF to do the same.