Energy and Power Development Minister, Mr. Elton Mangoma says power utility ZESA currently has no capacity to repay its debt of about US$800 million.This follows revelations that the power utility owes about US$800 million to its service providers, while it is owed more than US$400 million by customers. Government owes ZESA US$18.7 million.
The list of those with huge outstanding debts also includes the civil service and Members of Parliament, with the Manicaland Governor believed to owe ZESA US$100 000.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, Mr. Mangoma said government and the power utility are currently working on efforts to repay US$90 million owed to Cabora Bassa of Mozambique which threatened to cut off Zimbabwe two weeks ago.
â€œWe are not looking at repaying our debts in the short term,â€ said Mr Mangoma.
Minister Mangoma revealed that the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is going to disconnect all individuals with outstanding payments without fear or favour as a way to recover moneys owed.
â€œThere are no sacred cows; weâ€™ll switch off all those with outstanding payments, if ZESA hasnâ€™t already cut off debtors,â€ Minister Mangoma added.
The current tariffs are believed to be adequate only for cost recovery and maintaining infrastructure against the growing need for expansion of power stations which government is unable to finance.
Meanwhile, the implementation of the smart metering system and the provision of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLS) by ZESA are facing delays due to a reported flow in the tendering process.
The smart metering system was supposed to be implemented last year.
ZESA also aimed to distribute free CFLs by end of last year in order to relieve stress on the national electricity grid as the lights are believed to save about 200 megawatts nationally.
Minister Mangoma said the adjudication for CFLs tender process had been done with a decision expected to be made soon on the awarding of the tender.
He however expressed concern at the manner in which the tendering process is being done, alleging underhand dealings between ZESA and the Tender Board.
Minister Mangoma further highlighted irregularities in the process in which a tender was awarded to a company that would charge 55 cents on every transaction that would supply smart meters, thereby prejudicing the power utility.