By Lovemore Chazingwa in Chegutu
The weekend ambush power switch-off at Chegutu Town water treatment plant by utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), came as a wake-up call for the local authority to consider green energy options for their power requirements.
Chegutu Town’s public relations and communications manager, Brian Nkiwane, revealed in an interview that green energy options are the way to go for the agro-based local authority.
“Yes, on Friday Zesa switched us off like many other local authorities in Mashonaland West. Let me hasten to say we’re greatly affected. We owe Zesa a lot of money and they owe us as well. We thought it was a brotherly agreement. As l speak, we have set off the current bill for June. We had entered into a payment plan whereby we pay them ZW$320 000 a day. Zesa thought otherwise and decided to switch us off.
“As a council, we had no other option except to come up with a payment plan to clear the Zesa bill. This has inconvenienced us very much because it is happening towards the end of the month as ratepayers start to pay for their bills. They are likely to lag since they will raise the concern that they have no water. The timing is very bad.”
Looking into the future, Chegutu Municipality wants its own power generation sources.
“As a way forward, we need to think outside the box. We may have other areas that can generate revenue for us to have a solar field plant for our water treatment plant.”
Nkiwane fears infrastructure destruction that may trigger disease outbreaks.
“Under the circumstances, some residents may start destroying pipes to access water. That causes drinking water contamination and the outbreak of diseases. It’s a tight situation when we don’t have the water,” said Nkiwane over the phone.
On the other hand, Zesa is sticking to its guns, urging customers in arrears to clear their debts or risk being switched off.
“ZETDC would like to advise its valued customers in the northern region that the region is currently implementing credit control measures for defaulting customers. To avoid being disconnected, clients are advised to settle their bills,” reads part of a notice of power disconnection to defaulters.
Meanwhile, relief by the national power concern has been favoured to defaulters through a seven-day moratorium with immediate effect.
“Following the feedback and pleas from our customers nationwide, the utility is pleased to advise that it is giving a seven-day moratorium to defaulting customers. The moratorium is with immediate effect. Customers are encouraged to take advantage of this window to visit their nearest customer service centres to reconcile, pay their bills and or clear outstanding balances,” the power utility advised in a subsequent nationwide notice.
Concluding: “Please note that customers are also advised to take this as a final notice.”
According to the national public notice, customers positively responded to the call to clear their outstanding balances. During the weekend defaulters switch-off blitz, provincial capital Chinhoyi and the City of Kadoma suffered the same wrath of a blanket failure to supply fresh, safe, clean, potable water to residents and stakeholders.
Ironically, ZETDC owes some of the hard-hit councils more money than it is asking for.
In the case of Chinhoyi Town Council, the local authority indicated through a notice that it owes upward of $40 million while the power provider has moved back more than $250 million in dues.
The city of Kadoma was whipped for owing close to $70 million and a $1.4 billion debt overhang stokes ZETDC due to the City of Gold if communication by one Kadoma councillor is to be relied on.
Zesa stakeholder relationship manager Dr George Manyaya said professional customer confidentiality is upheld in handling client issues.
“Contractually, we cannot discuss client details with the public as this will be breaching confidentiality,” Dr Manyaya said when contacted for clarity.