Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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ZESA Angers Glen Norah Residents

ZESA Angers Glen Norah Residents

http://www.swradioafrica.com

HRT Membership Desk

4 June 2012, Glen Norah – ZESA has adopted punitive measures to defaulting 
residents here who have not been paying their electricity bills consistently 
by embarking in wide spread electricity disconnections. Residents in the 
area have various reasons why they have not been settling their monthly 
electricity bills.  Residents feel that electricity bills are based on 
estimates and are not a true reflection of the consumption at household 
level, load shedding and faulty billing. This has frustrated some 
breadwinners in the community who earn way below the poverty datum line. 
This has left them with what they said “no reason to pay electricity bills”. 
This contradicts the HRT policy which advocates for shared responsibility 
between residents and service providers in service delivery. From the HRT’s 
perspective, residents should exhibit their responsibility in service 
delivery mainly by paying bills for services rendered.  However, rates 
should be affordable for the good of the greater public.

Having received the reports of massive power disconnections from the Glen 
Norah B’ Residents’ Committee (GRC), that is responsible for monitoring and 
evaluating community service delivery by service providers, the HRT 
facilitated a mobile case work clinic in the area. From the interviews held 
by the HRT Membership Officer, Simbarashe Majamanda, HRT Community 
Coordinator Ms Abigail Itayi and the HRT Programs Intern, Mr Marshall 
Masiyazi from the Midlands State University on Tuesday 29 May 2012 in Glen 
Norah B Community, the dire economic situation of the country has affected 
the capacity of residents to pay electricity bills.  Most residents 
appreciated that they have an obligation to pay for their electricity but 
they have failed due to their socio-economic status. Eighty-nine (89) 
reports from 53 women and 36 men were received and documented by the HRT 
team within three hours at one of the households in the community.

The local Member of Parliament Honourable Gift Dzirutwe is seriously 
concerned with the situation. He has helped the residents to deal with the 
situation through sharing information and providing transport to the ZESA 
offices in the city centre.

The following key issues came from the interviews:

Economic problems: Elderly men and women interviewed aged between 59 and 
75 said they lack a source of income which has affected their capacity to 
settle their electricity bills.  Elderly women said that most of them are 
widowed and they rely mostly on vending activities which does not give them 
much money for survival. As vendors they also face challenges from the 
Zimbabwe Republic Police and Municipal Police who conduct raids in the name 
of illegal vending activities. This clearly shows that they also lack access 
to designated vending points or that they do not afford them if they are 
available.

Faulty billing: Residents said that even if they make payments to ZESA, 
the debt continues to sky rocket. “It appears making a payment is an 
indication that you have a bit of money that ZESA can suck from you” said 
one elderly man  aged  85 who showed that he does not have any hope to clear 
his debt which currently stands at $954.21 Account Number 283786651. The man 
went on to say that he was prepared to pay $45.00 per month for electricity.

Growing insecurity: There is a feeling that residents may lose their 
properties just as what happened to three households in Mabvuku after debt 
collectors confiscated their properties due to outstanding water rates in 
February 2012. Elderly women said that the high debts have caused insecurity 
to their children who are the heirs to their properties which they have also 
not fully acquired from council under the “rent to buy program”.

Unprofessional conduct by ZESA employees: Some of the interviewees 
revealed that ZESA officials are very uncooperative and hostile whenever 
they attempt seeking detailed explanations on their accounts. Residents in 
the area have resorted to bribing ZESA employees around $30.00 to avoid 
disconnection of electricity. Several residents have done this in the 
community and continue to fall prey to the ZESA employees.

Transition to multicurrency system: Although the ZESA Public Relations 
Officer, Mr Fullard Gwasira reported to HRT Communications Officer, Mr 
Shingayi Jena that ZESA indicated that ZESA scrapped off debts from 
residents accounts following the transition from the Zimbabwe dollar era to 
the multi-currency regime in February 2009, residents in the area are of the 
view that the transition was ill- managed and lacked transparency. From the 
residents’ viewpoint, the debts have accumulated largely due to estimated 
billing, the manipulated transition from the local currency to the 
multi-currency system, and the interest charged on overdue accounts.

Current situation: HRT offices are overwhelmed by residents who have ZESA 
complaints and they require ZESA’s assistance. The HRT Membership Desk is 
receiving reports of unprofessional conduct by the Harare ZESA Sales 
Managers specifically the ZESA Sales Manager who are telling referred 
clients that they are not prepared to read HRT referral letters in which the 
HRT writes to seek their intervention on individual cases. ZESA is saying 
that residents whose electricity was disconnected are supposed to settle 
their bills in full.  According to one female client this morning, the ZESA 
sales manager told her that he was not going to read her letter. She 
mentioned that she is prepared to pay $50.00 per month.  She was advised 
that she could pay the $50.00 per month until her debt is cleared then her 
electricity would be reconnected.  Last week, some clients were assisted by 
the Sales Manager but it was upon payment of 25% of the debt which was 
reduced to the previous 50% requirement. There is growing tension between 
ZESA and the residents of Glen Norah. Some residents have resorted to 
reconnecting power illegally which is contrary to the HRT policy.  They have 
and are also using the few dollars they had reserved to paying their 
electricity for other pressing needs at household level.

If the situation continues, ZESA employees face the risk of experiencing a 
backlash from disgruntled residents. It is up to ZESA to treat residents 
with respect or regret their uncalled for actions. It is time to change the 
approach or be forced to change the approach! The choice is for ZESA to 
make.

This will not benefit ZESA or the resident. We need to be realistic to 
address residents’ needs as well as the capacity needs of ZESA as the 
service provider.

For details and comments, please contact us on info@hrt.org.zw/
hretrust79@gmail.com or our website www.hrt.org.zw

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