Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, has been plunged into darkness after the troubled state-owned electricity company, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), disconnected electricity from residential and industrial areas over unpaid bills.
Zimbabwe is currently facing severe power outages as regional suppliers have reduced power supplies that the nation’s power utility can import into the country at any given time due to a failure to pay-off debts.
To raise this money, the power utility company issued ultimatums to customers to pay up their debts or risk being switched off.
The company gave customers who have not paid their bills from February to settle them by June 30 or risk a switch off.
Since February when Zimbabwe’s economy started using multi-foreign currencies most people are not able to settle their bills as employers are still paying paltry salaries in foreign currency.
However, since Monday this week, ZESA workers went on rampage in Bulawayo’s residential suburbs and industrial areas switching off electricity over unpaid bills, plunging the city into darkness.
“We have been directed by our superiors to disconnect electricity from all houses and factories with outstanding bills since February. All those people who have outstanding bills should know that we are coming to their homes or business premises to switch off electricity to force them to settle outstanding bills,” said one ZESA worker.
The worst affected areas are Cowdray Park, Sizinda, Pumula, Tshabalala, Nkulumane, Emganwini, Nketa high density suburbs and Belmont industrial areas where ZESA workers began disconnecting electricity on Monday.
The outstanding bills for most residents range from US$100 to US$200.
ZESA spokesperson, Fullward Gwasira, said: “We are not going back on this process. People were given enough time to settle their bills but they ignored us. The company is broke at the moment and we have also to raise funds to import more electricity.”
In response Bulawayo residents and business people accused ZESA of being unfair by disconnecting electricity when the company has not been providing enough electricity everyday due to load shedding.
“Considering that we go for long hours without electricity, our bills become a mockery. I understand that ZESA, like any other company, would want to raise money for its operations but what they are doing is unfair,” said Nqobani Ndlovu, a Bulawayo journalist.
ZESA is at risk of being switched off by regional powerhouses if it fails to settle the more than US$57 million debt it owes.
ZESA imports power from regional powerhouses mainly from Mozambique’s Hidroelectrica De Cahora Bassa, which it owes millions in US dollars.