Zimbabwe: Consumer fury over 49 percent electricity cost hike With repeated power outages at prime business hours, consumers and businesses reject demand for increased payments

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AA) – Consumers here have risen in fury over a proposed 49 percent hike in the cost of electricity by the national electricity utility.

The state-owned power supplier Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) applied on Dec. 28 to increase tariffs from $0.0986 cents per kilowatt hour to $0.14 cents. The utility claims that the increase is needed to finance coal imports and maintenance costs. But consumers have reacted with outrage.

Marvellous Khumalo, director of the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the move to increase tariffs by the power utilities in Zimbabwe is wrong and ill-timed.

“The socio-economic situation prevailing in the country at the moment is not conducive to sustaining such an increase. The majority of our active populace is out of gainful employment — how will they manage such a tariff?” Khumalo asked.

With power cuts occurring often during prime business hours, Khumalo wondered how the authority could have the right to demand more money?

The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) released a position paper to the press on Tuesday opposing the move.
“This comes at a time when people in Zimbabwe are facing financial hardships and the proposed increase is too high. More workers are being laid off and this will further add a burden to their lives,” said Regina Bakuri, a representative of the HRT told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

For the utility, improving the power grid requires maintenance and investment which must be funded by users.

“Power production for 2015 has been greatly affected by the low water levels at Lake Kariba which reduced production from a capacity of 750 megawatts (MW) to 475MW as of September 2015,” Douglas Chingoka of the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a subsidiary company of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, which is responsible for managing the power grid, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

The Kariba Power Station needs an increased allocation of water, for which the utility must pay, Chingoka pointed out. Dam maintenance costs must also be shared, and diesel fuel is also needed for restarting generators, he added.

Then, coal must be transported and purchased to run generators, Chingoka said.

All of these materials have increased in cost since the electricity tariff was last established in 2011, he said. Moreover, ZPC seeks to increase capacity to 1330MW by 2020.
What’s more, power stations need increased maintenance and upgrades, and imported power has to be used, if power outages are to be avoided in the future, Chingoka explained.

But both consumers and businesses do not buy into these arguments.

“At this stage the economy of Zimbabwe cannot have cost increases in any of the inputs. We strongly oppose the application for tariff increase by ZETDC,” the Chamber of Mines, the Chamber of industries, and the Farmers Union said in a joint statement released to the press on Tuesday.

Peter Steyl, Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President told Anadolu Agency that farmers must work with low costs, and the move by the utility to pass on its costs to consumers was tantamount to passing on its inefficiencies to their clients.

“Tariff increases are not a guarantee of improved power supply,” Steyl said.

© 2016, Wallace Mawire. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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