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Zesa customers 'fail' to buy tokens

by Staff reporter
16 Feb 2023 at 04:51hrs | Views
Several households in parts of Harare that were recently connected to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Distribution Company's (ZETDC) billing system are failing to buy pre-paid tokens because of delays in the system registration of new metering devices.

Last month, Zetdc launched a US$35 million prepaid and smart metering rollout programme to curb the growing debt risks due to payments default by major consumers. The Zetdc, the power transmission unit of State power utility Zesa, is owed $42 billion by customers still on post-paid metres.

The programme is being rolled out in residential areas, farming communities and to small enterprises while smart meters are being extended to large and medium consumers.

Some affected residents told The Herald Finance & Business that they had not been able to purchase the tokens while the power utility has allegedly take long address to the problem.

"We reported the problem to Zesa head office and we were referred to the district (offices) but we have not yet received any help," said one customer who is a resident of Dzivarasekwa high-density suburb, about 20 kilometers west of the central business district.

Other affected suburbs include Mufakose and Kuwadzana.

Zetdc acting managing director Engineer Howard Choga said he had not received any formal complaints, but attributed the problem to the migration from the old to a new system.

"We are also installing (new devices) at a faster pace than registration and we are targeting to install about 100 000 meters under the current programme," said Mr Choga.

Some residents fear the delay in the registration of the devices could open pathways for corruption. In several instances, Zesa employees have been accused of taking bribes to provide services that should ordinarily be offered for free.

"It beggars belief that Zetdc would install meters that it knows fully well are not registered," another affected resident Mr Terrence Shamu said.

"Besides, how hard is it to punch some random numbers into a computer? I believe some officials within the power utility deliberately create chaos in order to induce panic and stranded users into paying bribes either for reconnection, repairs or as in this case, prepaid meter registration.

"There is just no other sensible explanation to the Zetdc's actions. By its inactions, the utility breeds a culture of corruption."

According to the Zetdc, the remaining class of consumers, although fewer than those already on new devices; generate the larger portion of the revenue for the utility. The prepaid and smart meters have the potential to lower the utility's operational costs by between 55 and 60 percent. Previously, Zesa indicated it is losing potential revenue due to illegal connections and the "primitive" billing system.

In 2012, the Zetdc introduced the first-ever pre-paid platform. Ever since the introduction of the prepayment platform, there has been a major shift in the purchasing of electricity tokens from the banking halls to the more convenient channels.

The Zetdc has managed to migrate as many as 751 000 consumers to the prepaid platform mainly small business points and domestic customers while 103 000 points remain on the post-paid and load limit platform. Harare region alone has over 300 000 customers with a total of 268 484 installed on prepaid meters.

Source - The Herald