In recent months the power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), has embarked on a massive prepaid meter roll out in most suburbs, a move that has been met with mixed reactions.
Roy Mawire of Arcadia supported the move, saying that the system is simple to use and has a lot of benefits. “As for me, I now have fewer arguments with my tenants owing to this technology. I can negotiate with them about managing our power consumption,” he said. According to Mawire, misunderstandings between landlords and their tenants used to be common, with some even having to call ZESA to seek clarity over bills.
Memory Mhembere (40) of Chitungwiza said since the installation of these meters in her area sometime ago, she has resorted to cooking beans or knuckle bones (mazondo) on the fire, saying that otherwise a week’s power could be consumed in one cooking. “I remember last bathing in geyser water before these were put in place. Their rates are too high. In normal situations cooking should be affordable regardless of what one is cooking,” she said.
She also expressed concern over the continued load shedding as she believes that if the power utility is able to maximise revenue collection through the debt amortisation plan available in this system, this should translate to a significant improvement in service delivery. Mhembere urged ZESA not to switch off power frequently as it affects their revenue collection too, as meters will be stagnant when there is no electricity.
“Some borehole owners used to give us water, but with this new system they are now reluctant to do so as cannot afford to run their pumps for longer periods,” said a Hatfield resident, who declined to be named. She added that the system is not bad after all as it poses a lot of benefits to residents and the power company in the long run, provided the rates are somewhat reduced.
According to the authority’s website, as at 29 September 2014, its generating capacity was at 1170MW which is far less than what the market needs.
“Any problem on the system such as a breakdown at a power generation station or on a transmission line, can impact the supply to customers. When this happens, the system is unable to meet the demand of customers. ZESA system controllers under these conditions have no choice but to implement load shedding as a last resort,” said the authority.
Load shedding simply stated is a controlled temporary way of cutting power to parts of the country when there is not enough electricity to meet the needs of customers.
As stated by ZESA, Zimbabwe has the average tariff of US9.83¢/kWh against the region’s US14¢/kWh.
Recently, there have been some reports that some unscrupulous people were circumventing the meters, by tampering with the installations. Under the Electricity Act, vandalism and tampering with ZESA equipment attract a mandatory prison term of up to 10 years and according to the authority several people have since been prosecuted.