Govt pays $155m Zesa bill

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GOVERNMENT has paid $155 million to Zesa towards the electricity bill accrued by its departments and local authorities over a long period. Zesa is owed about $600 million by Government departments and local authorities and in June this year, an announcement was made that Treasury Bills were going to be issued to extinguish the debt.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), Zesa’s power transmission firm, is owed just over $1 billion by both commercial and domestic users. It has already begun instituting legal proceedings against defaulting local authorities and some domestic consumers to recover its money.

While admitting that collections — to recover the $1 billion — have generally remained low, Government has begun to honour its pledge to pay up to $500 000 to clear the debt by its departments and local authorities. Zesa chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba, told The Herald Business yesterday that Government has already paid $155 million.

“They (collections) are still not right but remember Government promised to pay about $500 000 to deal with what Government and local authorities were owing. They are in the process of doing so (paying). I think about $155 million has been paid so far,” said Eng Chifamba.

ZETDC has dragged over 200 local authorities, State Enterprises and Parastatals, private companies and prominent individuals to court to recover its money. The 200 defaulters taken to court are not the only ones, but were seen as bad debtors with the legal process considered as the last solution.

The power utility wants to recover $25 million from about 40 State enterprises and local authorities. Farmers, who enjoyed a debt write-off in 2013, are understood to be slowly paying up their obligations.

From May 2013 to the end of June this year, farmers had raked a $108 million debt, as they held back payments hoping to get another debt write-off as the country moves towards next year’s plebiscite. Eng Chifamba said: “We have been getting some payment (from farmers). We did a stop order arrangement and some payment has been coming.

“I don’t have figures (from the head) but for Command Agriculture, I think that has been covered partially (by the stop order).”

Previously, Government had vetoed ZETDC’s plan to have stop orders and the installation of prepaid meters on farms to encourage timeous payment of electricity bills. It was thought that prepaid meters were going to hurt farmers in the event that they run out of power units before they get some money to top up.

ZETDC is exploring several opportunities to stimulate payments of bills so that it can also honour its obligations with Mozambique’s power utility Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) and Eskom of South Africa. Although Zesa’s debt remains a closely guarded secret, only mentioned when the two regional power suppliers threaten to cut supplies.

In September, it was said that Zesa owed Eskom about $44 million while HCB was said to be owed $10 million. Yesterday, Eng Chifamba declined to divulge the exact sum owed to Eskom and HCB.

“The debt is under control,” he said.

Quizzed on how much the debt is, Eng Chifamba said: “No the issue is not discussed in public but I can tell you that it is under control.”–herald

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