HARD-PRESSED Zimbabweans will have to pay more for their power after Zesa Holdings hiked tariffs by a staggering 583 percent in a move set to trigger further rises in prices of goods and services in the country. The power utility company now charges an average of $20,50 for 50 kilowatts per hour up from $3.
The new tariffs are with immediate effect and came on the backdrop of rolling power cuts that average about 15 hours a day. They also come at a time when Zesa has warned the government that the country risks a total black- out if its prices were not adjusted.
But the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, Denford Mutashu, said the new tariffs though necessary would hurt ordinary people badly.
"In the wake of the acceleration towards an open market where demand and supply determines pricing in the economy, the cost of living will continue to become unbearable for the majority, whose incomes remain depressed," Mutashu told the Daily News last night.
"It is understandable that parastatals now charge market prices for goods and services to ensure availability, but given the current socio-economic dynamics, this will hurt the poor more as salaries and wages have not moved at the same pace.
"To also increase the tariff before making the long overdue structural re- forms at such institutions is tantamount to condoning the status quo," he added.
National Consumer Rights Association advocacy and campaigns adviser, Effie Ncube, said the new cost of electricity was "highly inflationary" and would drive the cost of all goods and services up as businesses would pass on the added cost to consumers.
"This in turn will drive the cost of living and poverty to the skies. The poorest of the poor will be the hardest hit. It will be even more difficult to put food on the table and send children to school.
"Many people will die of malnutrition and other food-deficiency diseases. This is a failure of monumental proportions on the part of the government," Ncube said.
The electricity tariffs were last in- creased in August when Zesa adopted a three-fold stepped billing system for its domestic consumers.
Under the new tariffs, domestic users would pay $0,91 for between 51/kWh to 200/kWh and $3,91/kWh for any purchases which are above 200/kWh — a huge leap from $0,30 and $0,40 respectively.
This means consumers would pay $180 for 200/KWh, from around $60 which is a more than 200 percent increase. Zimbabwe has been importing power from neighbouring South Africa and selling it at a discounted rate.
South Africa's Eskom is charging its citizens about US$0,06 while Zambia, which shares Kariba Dam with Zimbabwe is charging US$0,04. Namibia, which is also drawing 80MW from Zimbabwe's national grid, is charging US$0,13.