Companies take Zesa to court

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SEVEN companies in Bulawayo last week filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking an interdict barring the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Distribution Company (ZETDC) from charging exorbitant tariffs and disconnections of electricity by the power utility, which they argued were illegal.

Report by Gamma Mudarikiri

In the urgent application filed on August 28, NIMR&Chapman Manufacturing, O’Conolly&Company (Pvt) Ltd, Phoenix Consolidated Industries Limited, Nampak Polyfoil (Pvt) Limited, United Springs&Forging, Lobels Biscuit (Pvt) Ltd and Ionela (Pvt) Ltd sought the intervention of the High Court to stop electricity disconnections and the exorbitant charges levied by the power utility.

ZETDC and the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) are the first and the second respondents.

In their application through their lawyers Lazarus and Sarif legal practitioners, the companies said the power utility issued summons for non-payment and disconnections notice to NIMR&Chapman Manufacturing, O’Conolly, Nempak Polyfoil (Pvt) Ltd and United Spring&Forging Co, while there was a case on the same issue still being adjudicated upon by the High Court.

“The applicants request the intervention of this honourable court to remain operational because if their plants are switched off, it causes irreparable financial harm, affects the generation of revenue and loss of employment to thousands of employees,” part of the affidavit reads.

According to the court application, NIMR&Chapman Manufacturing, which is the first applicant, said it has suspended operations, sending home 150 of its workers after ZETDC disconnected power to the company over a $303 621,21 debt, which the company argued it was not in a position to pay.

United Spring&Forging Co also suffered the same fate and had to pay $12 390,25 to remain connected. From 2009, a number of Bulawayo companies and ZETDC have been embroiled in a legal wrangle over the manner in which the electricity supplier has been billing for the consumption of electricity.

On December 20 last year, the dispute was settled by an order of consent.

In their argument, the companies said it was not clear how the power utility derived the figures of the unpaid debts, which were tagged in the disconnection notices.

The applicants argued that the amount which they were said to be owing on disconnection notices did not match with bills sent to them as they are not clear when they are for.

According to court papers, Phoenix Consolidated Industries Limited was issued with a disconnection notice for the period from May this year, which indicated a debt of $153 872,30.

However, during the same month, the power utility sent a bill reflecting an outstanding balance of $699 328,30 and another dated August 6, 2013 reflected a debt of $787 069,30. The companies argued that ZETDC has disconnected or threatened to disconnect supplies for amounts which are yet to be adjudicated upon by the High Court.

“The notices of disconnections are, therefore, unlawful and should be declared null and void,” part of the court application read.

The companies said the previous tariffs were declared by consent to be unlawful and therefore, unenforceable, as the amounts reflected in the bills sent to the applicants reflected a balance brought forward.

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