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Zesa pre-paid meters spark outrage
March 3 2013
BULAWAYO; The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) pre-paid metre billing system has drawn the ire of Bulawayo residents who are accusing the power utility of cheating them of their hard earned money.
Zesa introduced the pre-paid meter system last year replacing the loader meters and the exercise is still to cover other areas. Yesterday residents said Zesa’s billing system has seen those who exceed 50 kilowatt hours a month having to spend 10 times more when they need more electricity for the remainder of the month.
“How are we expected to make ends meet when they are charging us exorbitantly like this,” said a resident from Coronation Cottages in North End.
She said the power utility’s billing system was deliberately complicated to cheat unsuspecting consumers. “When I first bought electricity I got 292 units for $30, when I bought again with the same amount, they gave me 190 units. This is day light robbery because how can the same amount give me lesser and lesser units,” said the resident, who is a pensioner.
“Zesa needs to be investigated so that their cheating is put to an end,” she said.
Another resident from Luveve suburb said he did not understand the whole billing system by Zesa.
“When I complained that they had actually charged me more than the same units last time I bought electricity last week they told me that the more I consume electricity the more I have to pay,” said the resident who is a teacher.
He said the stance taken by Zesa was unfair.
“They are taking advantage of the already vulnerable citizens. As it stands people are already struggling with other obligations such as school fees and yet they sell us electricity at this absurd rates,” said the resident.
Another resident from Mahatshula said there was a need for Zesa to review its tariffs.
“If there was a way of going back to the old system, it could be better, because this new metre system is proving to be more expensive,” said the resident.
He said the old system had no provisions that disadvantaged consumers such as the new system.
Another consumer complained that apart from the high tariffs, Zesa was also deducting more than 20 percent from amounts they pay to settle outstanding debts. “We are being simply being overcharged and we don’t understand these flimsy excuses they are feeding us,” said a Queens Park East resident.
The first 50-kilowatt hours are billed at two cents per unit while those who consume between 51 and 300 kilowatts are charged at 11 cents per unit. Those who exceed the 300 units are charged at a higher charge of 15 cents per unit. This has seen some consumers who slipped into the 51 kilowatts range complaining that the recently introduced prepaid meter system by Zesa was a way of cheating them as their units got used up quickly.
Contacted for comment Zesa Holdings spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said tariffs for pre-paid meter users had not been increased, but consumers would witness a corresponding rise in electricity payments if they consumed more energy.
“The pre-paid metre system is not like the juice (airtime) card one for phones. This system is consumption sensitive in the sense that the more power you use, the more you should pay,” said Mr Gwasira.
He said this was because they wanted residents to adopt a culture of saving power.
“We want to enforce behaviour change, this system recognises how much electricity one uses and if people do not change their behaviour towards saving energy then they would always complain that we are overcharging them,” said Mr Gwasira.
The Zimbabwe Energy Authority, however, only gave the power utility the green light to increase average tariffs from 9,83c kilowatt per hour to 9,86c.