Consumers played a part in bankrupting Zimbabwe's power utility, Zesa Holdings by failing to pay their bills on time resulting in the institution now failing to provide the much-needed electricity, plunging the whole country into darkness, a cabinet minister has said.
Zesa is owed about ZWL$1,2 billion and in turn owes regional power utilities over US$70 million.
Failure to settle regional obligations has seen the utility failing to import more power to augment dwindling local production which has resulted in the introduction of daily 18-hour load shedding.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi told business leaders the utility had so far managed to recover only $55 million of what it is owed, while calling on the nation to adopt a culture of paying their bills.
"We have been irresponsible; we have not paid our debts. When you do not pay your debts, you lose the moral high ground to criticise Zesa," he said.
"We are the authors of its insolvency."
He said it was in the nation's best interests to ensure that Zesa was run efficiently and its efforts supported through consistent bill payments.
Minister Chasi said it was impossible for the utility to also service its debts when consumers were not paying their bills. To address the issue of non-payment, Zesa has partially moved to pre-paid meters for most domestic consumers and is using the same system to recover amounts owed by some.
"Out of the $1.2 billion, they have collected something like $55 million, its nothing," Minister Chasi said, stressing the need for businesses especially to be up to date with their bill payments.
Minister Chasi said considerations were being made for a tariff review as the current tariff is not cost-reflective.