Zimbabwe Power Crisis Worsened by Deadbeat VIPs

Zimbabwe Prime Minister and Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai  (file photo)
Zimbabwe Prime Minister and Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai (file photo)

Zimbabweans have gotten used to power cuts, often going days without electricity.  After the country’s power generating infrastructure failed to deliver, Zimbabwe turned to importing some of its energy to meet needs.  But one by one, regional power companies have been disconnecting Zimbabwe as the country defaults on its bills.  Zimbabwe leaders are a big part of the problem - not just in terms of policy but in paying their own electric bills.

Defaulting consumers owe Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, or Zesa, in the range of $500 million.

According to leaked bills from the Zimbabwe’s power utility, President Robert Mugabe and several cabinet ministers owe a big chunk of it.  According to the documents, Zimbabwe’s first family alone owes Zesa more than $345,000 in unpaid power bills.

Steven Chidawanyika, the director of information for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, says the president and his allies have reason to not pay electricity bills at their farms.

"There are reasons why people are failing to pay," said Chidawanyika. "I think reasons have been said by many - who are not myself - it is the effects of [economic] sanctions. "

He gives no estimate for when leaders might pay their electricity bills.

Since the publication of the report, Zimbabweans have not been happy, as they bear the brunt of Zesa’s failure to import adequate power resulting in frequent power cuts.

Because of the sensitivity, people on the streets were happy to talk to VOA but not give their names.  

“We have people who are economically disadvantaged who are made to pay their Zesa bills," said one person. " Yet we have people who are able to pay their Zesa bills but chose not to pay.  I think it is irresponsibility on their part. I think they shouldn’t be spared.”

Another one had this to say:

“They are living in the Stone Age where they think everything should be for free because they are leaders," said another.

Political analyst Proffesor Garikai Timuri from the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Policy Studies says many high government officials may have a feeling of entitlement.

"It is a false sense of entitlement the fact that probably there is this belief that they are doing the work for the government, they are in service for the public, therefore is sense of entitlement that they can go scot free almost everything because they are public servants of a privileged nature," said Timuri.

At times, if not most of the time - even with a paid up bill - a Zimbabwean can go for hours to days without electricity.

Many people have to turn to scarce and expensive fuel for generators.  

The power generating companies from the region have been cutting supplies to Zimbabwe, thus increasing the number of hours Zimbabweans have to endure without power.

ZESA is struggling to offset a debt of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Energy Minister Elton Mangoma did not address the debt issue specifically but said he understands the reasons for it.

"They would be facing economic hardships that could cause them not able to pay," said Mangoma. "Zesa itself has not had an efficient system instead of meter reading, they have been using estimates, so some people would not want to pay because they are not sure whether that is correct bill or not.  Some of it might be a culture of non-payment so it could be a combination of those factors. "

But Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - who also just recently paid his own outstanding electric bill - told parliament this month that officials who owe Zesa should honor their debts or the country can expect the worst.

"Services rendered must be paid for if you want the services to be provided," said Tsvangirai. "One of these mornings we will wake when there is no Zesa.  So my appeal to my colleagues in government, either as ministers or senior government officials is pay something."

In the meantime, indications are Zesa will continue with the long, unscheduled power cuts.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anony Mouse
March 31, 2012 12:33 AM
If Zimbabwe political leaders owe a lot of money to the electricity company, and if these leaders do not pay their electricity bills, then the whole population of Zimbabwe will be affected and the power cuts will affect everybody including hospitals, schools and businesses. The leaders are very rich ,so people cannot see why the leaders do not pay their bills, so Zimbabweans get power cuts because of unpaid bills by political leaders.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs