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Zimbabwe’s electricity tariffs unrealistic

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There is a wide outcry that the charges of many service providers including the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) are unjustifiably high. Responding to public complaints and the issuance of yellow cards by WOZA in Bulawayo over the unfair charges, Mr. Ernest Machiya, of the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of ZESA, said the authority’s tariffs were justified as they were the lowest in the SADC region.

This is not a new statement, and it’s the only answer that the ZESA ever has. I am sure that the majority of people in Zimbabwe are civil servants taking home between 100 to 200 dollars a month. That person has school going children, who need fees, transport money and food. Power is not the only service to pay for. There is also water, rentals and other rates that are also charged at their own levels of madness. People’s earnings are far below regional levels. Food is very expensive given that we are living largely on imported products. Is there any justification to charge a regional tariff to people who are struggling well below the poverty datum line? Is there any justification to compare normal economies to an abnormal one such as ours. The little that we can afford to pay them has been turned into hefty salaries for themselves without improving the service delivery side. What should come first between awarding above average salaries and improving service delivery?

Despite poor a poor service characterised by severe power cuts, ZESA has no shame in billing its domestic customers amounts close to and above 1000 dollars a month. In some instances it is billing twice a month, a trend that has never been heard of in the history of this country.

During the past era, tuck-shop owners always raised their prices in response to an anticipated increase in supply of money maybe because salaries have been increased. That was simple supply and demand economics. Can ZESA tell us what it is responding to when charging USD2000 to someone with USD150 in his pocket, worse still without any proper supply of services?

Mr Machiya, can you suggest how you expect a headmaster at Mufakose High to pay you say 500 dollars a month only for your power and nothing more, let alone a widow in Budiriro? We encourage leaders of institutions like ZESA to desist from displaying such absurdity. We end up questioning your credentials as professionals and as leaders of socially responsible institutions. Our advice to you service providers is simple, “The issue is not about the regional level, it is about who your clients are and what they can afford.” For South Africans, power charges are a reasonable fraction of the an average person’s salary, the same can be said of Botswana, Mozambique and whichever regional country one can name. The same cannot be said of our dear Zimbabwe. Can you all join us in the campaign for decent salaries for everyone before charging high tariffs. It should be known to ZESA and other companies that the amounts which people are not paying does not constitute an asset in you balance sheet; it is by default bad debt as no one will ever afford to pay up even in a decade’s time.

3 comments to “Zimbabwe’s electricity tariffs unrealistic”

  1. Comment by budiriro hatidi:

    ichi ndicho chokwadi zvarai magetsi enyu zesa hatimadi haana zvaanobatsira mari hatina kuripa ngozi yakadai

  2. Comment by Shelton Madotsa:

    Your last paragraph probably has the answer. Lobby for higher salaries and i add that alternatives to grid electricity and good policy should be really considered.

    The electricity business is capital intensive and hence tariffs are steep. Tariffs are not determined by the earnings of customers as the costs simply have to be covered. If ZESA were to subsidize domestic customers they would still push up industrial and commercial tariffs and the prices would still be pushed to the consumer. What you are advocating is what the government did and led to the demise of ZESA. I remember at one time we were paying monthly electricity bills which were less than the price of a pint of beer, all at the insistence of government that customers must be protected from higher tariffs.

    If customers cannot afford grid electricity they should not use it and should look for alternatives and government must make it easy through policy formulation. Why is it that in Botswana, which has per capita income several times ours, domestic customers use gas for cooking? The reason is that electricity is expensive and using gas to cook costs a small fraction of electricity costs. ZESA is forced to import huge amounts of power to cover peak demand.

    I will not venture into the import duties on renewable energy products that can enable people to use free solar energy!

    Its also unfortunate that the electricity business requires a lot of technical skills to function. If ZESA cannot pay engineers and technicians good salaries they simply pack their bags and go taking away the skills that are required to run things now and and when the company secures funding for recovery. Thats the reason why i am writing from outside the borders of Zim now and the skills are in demand all over the world.

    There is nothing absurd about foregoing what you cannot afford. Price controls have never worked and in my view they contributed big time to the mess we are in and never benefitted the marginalised. Rather ask government to intervene in other ways like direct subsidies and good policies

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