The amount, billed to Chinhoyi University of Technology, is said to have been accumulated in power consumption for the month of June alone, further cementing accusations that most ZESA bills are unrealistic and usually based on estimates.

The power utility firm, itself ironically sitting on mounting debts to its regional suppliers, recently began to cut power supplies to both individuals and businesses that have defaulted in honouring their bills.

ZESA owes Mozambique’s Cahora Basa more than US$50 million in unpaid electricity bills and has blamed it on the economic conditions of the country, which has been in a recession for the better part of the past decade.

An uncompromising Willard Munemo, the ZESA area Manager for Mashonaland West province, told the ZimDiaspora during the weekend power utility would soon cut off supplies to a farm owned by the Chinhoyi University of Technology.

"I do not see anything newsworthy about that. The farm should just pay us the money because it consumed power worth that much, simple," said Munemo.

"If they fail to pay, we will treat them like any other customer, which means switching them off.

"The Minister, Engineer Elias Mudzuri gave us the green light and we will do just that."

Farm management, on the other hand, argues that the government-owned power utility firm could have made a typographical error, and has asked the ZESA management to revisit the bill before it could be settled, while ZESA officials are adamant that their calculations are a true reflection of the farm’s electricity consumption and want the farm to pay.

Documents made available to the ZimDiaspora indicate that the farm has been billed an average amount of USD2000 during the past five months, which combined is twice lower than the outstanding one month bill.

Other farms in and around the town were billed in the range of USD2000 for the month of June.

During the weekend, the university farm’s officials met with ZESA management in Chinhoyi in their desperate but sterile bid to have the matter resolved but the power supplier insisted on payment of the US$23 000.

Acting farm accountant, Simon Nhema told our correspondent that the tertiary institution could not afford to settle such a bill because its farm coffers were empty.

"We cannot raise such an amount in our economy and that automatically means that we are not in a position to pay such a bill," said Nhema.

"We are still trying to realise revenue from the maize crop that we harvested a few weeks ago, and at the prevailing price of USD250 per tonne, we will need 100 tonnes to clear that bill, which is threatening the viability of our farm"

If farm management fails to pay and ZESA goes on to switch off power supplies, Zimbabwe’s cereal problems would turn to even worse due to an already critical supply of wheat.

According to statistics from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zimbabwe has the highest cereal deficit for 2009, among the 15 countries that make up the regional bloc.

An erstwhile bread basket of Southern Africa, the landlocked former British colony has a deficit of 1 million tonnes of cereal, due to collapsed agricultural production that dates back to President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reform program of 2000.

The geriatric ruler then deployed war veterans, the ZANU (PF) youth militia and other marauding supporters of his party to violently take over productive farmland from white commercial farmers, in an operation that left at least five farmers dead.

The expropriated land was later on parceled to influential politicians and senior officers of the uniformed forces, who have failed to maintain production levels, thereby relegating the country to a basket case.

Mozambique temporarily pulled the plug on Zimbabwe in 2008 due to an unpaid US$10 million bill, which has ballooned to the latest figure and continues to rise due to Zimbabwe’s successful government-government negotiation of a grace period for the settling of the debt, which resulted in the waiver of payment until the unity government became fully organized.

Mozambique granted the grace period at a political level.

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