HARARE— The state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) says it is owed almost a billion dollars in unpaid power bills with the government and local authorities among the chief culprits.
Julian Chinembiri, the ZETDC managing director, told the National Assembly’s Mines and Energy portfolio committee that some of the major defaulting companies are in the mines sector and industry with domestic users and farmers also failing to pay.
Mining companies and industry owe $244 million, domestic users $299 million and farmers $75 million.
He said the company is implementing various debt-recovery strategies to collect the money it is owed.
Chinembiri said the prepaid electricity meter system has been useful in ensuring the ZETDC receives a certain percentage that is deducted from power purchases to cover the debt.
For instance, if a customer buys $100 worth of electricity, 30 percent of the amount goes towards debt recovery.
He said the company has also saved electricity as a result of the system introduced three years ago.
Chinembiri noted that the company’s local and international debt stands at above $300 million, adding this relates to money borrowed from financial institutions to finance various projects.
Though there are various projects being undertaken by ZETDC’s parent company, ZESA Holdings and some of its subsidiaries to improve power generation, the country has a serious power deficit of more 600 megawatts.
With a daily peak demand of 1,950 megawatts, Zimbabwe generates 1,250 megawatts leading to load shedding.
Power purchase agreements with neighboring countries are not yielding anything as the countries are also under stress, the committee was told.
Lawmakers, expressed anger at Chinembiri’s revelations that his company was giving the more than 5,000 ZESA employees and pensioners $160 worth of electricity and Ministry of Energy and Power Development workers $100 worth of electricity monthly as part of their benefits.
Masvingo Central lawmaker Edmund Mhere of Zanu PF said this translated to $10 million of electricity distributed for free every month. He said this was unacceptable given the company is struggling financially.
Several members of the committee complained that the amount being dished out for free was too much given that average monthly electricity consumption for an ordinary family of six stood at about $50.
The committee ordered Chinembiri to provide parliament with the list of all those getting free electricity before Monday when the committee is expected to further discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services deputy commissioner in charge of administration, Aggrey Machingauta , told the Defense and Security committee Monday that the attempted jail break at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in March was politically motivated.
He said the move was meant to embarrass President Robert Mugabe who was on state visit in Japan at the time.
Machingauta said more than 2,000 dangerous criminals at the prison would have been able to run loose had the jailbreak been successful.
He said it is not true that the problem at the prison started because of food shortages.
Machinaguta revealed that treasury has availed $200,000 to repair the prison facilities following the attempted security breach at Chikurubi, adding the prison remains compromised in the absence of security gadgets such as CCTV and security cameras.