|File picture of Maonde in Sakubva suburb of Mutare|
Over six thousand residents in Sakubva suburb of Mutare have been living in the dark after ZESA allegedly disconnected them due to a ZW$2 million legacy debt owed to the power utility by Mutare City Council.
The details were documented in a Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) report compiled in May 2021, which exposed glaring mismanagement by public offices at the detriment of the community.
The report revealed that residents of Maonde area in Sakubva paid their bills to Mutare City Council, inclusive of water and electricity, and in October 2019 ZESA disconnected them after the local authority’s debt had accumulated to ZW$2 million.
Residents are reportedly appealing to the local authority to hand them over to ZESA so that they can pay their electricity bills directly, as they say their debt was only ZW$50 000, and they have previously demonstrated against Mutare City Council as they are now resorting to looking for firewood and risking being arrested.
“The cutting off of electricity has resulted in negative socio-economic consequences in including loss of livelihoods and rise in criminal activities. Women, girls and young boys have to bear the brunt as they have to spend long hours looking for firewood in the Nyakamete area, Fern Valley and Lower Vumba, which is almost ten kilometres away.
“They are exposed to the danger of wild animals, and more specifically they face arrest from the Forestry Commission and EMA Acts for fetching firewood without a license,” reads the report.
It also notes that when caught by forestry rangers while fetching firewood, residents are often subjected to pay bribes, with rangers allegedly demanding sex from women and girls to let them pass with the firewood.
The report notes that ZESA had initially disconnected Mutare Civic Center offices and other council facilities but when the authority was approached they shifted the blame to residents and said they were the ones who owed the local authority, therefore they supposed to pay up or remain in darkness.
A community committee, which included a Community Resource Monitoring Agent (CORA) was once put in place to engage Mutare City Council and the local authority is reported to have engaged ZESA in turn, which demanded that council must redo electrical fittings and provide bulk electricity meters so that ZESA could switch them on again.
Residents are demanding that the Council must restore electricity unconditionally and surrender them to ZESA so that they pay direct to them as to avoid future services being cut off by the services provider.