All council debtors will soon have a portion of the money they owe local authorities being deducted by Zesa each time they purchase prepaid electricity, a Government official has said.
The proposal comes against a backdrop of council operations being crippled by the ballooning bills, with Harare City Council being owed almost $1,9 billion and Chitungwiza $150 million.
Addressing a meeting with Chitungwiza management recently, Harare Provincial District Coordinator Mr Tafadzwa Muguti said there was need for innovation in terms of resource mobilisation.
“Think outside the box,” he said. “I will be engaging Zesa, in particular ZETDC, because we now want to make bills which are owed by residents to be put on electricity bills.
“That is the only way councils will be able to collect their money. When one tops up electricity, they will then pay for what is owed to local authorities. I think this will start to help address a lot of backlogs of the money that councils are owed.”
Mr Muguti said the model proved to be effective for Zesa, which introduced prepaid metering and is recovering what it is owed through deducting a certain percentage each time one tops up their electricity.
He said the partnership may be a faster and effective way of recovering debts than engaging debt collectors that take forever to get residents pay up.
“I know you have debt collectors, very ineffective that they end up doing very unscrupulous things to get that money,” said Mr Muguti. “So, instead of wasting money even going to the courts, engage in smart partnerships.”
Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association secretary general Mr Gift Kupurati said the Zesa route would help councils recover their money.
But Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association acting director, Mr Brighton Kanyama, said councils should address reasons why residents were not paying bills.
“For example, residents are buying water at up to $10 per bucket, but the council has continued to bill residents for unavailable water,” he said.
“Some residents last received water more than three years ago, but the council continues to send water bills. So it will be unfair to get money for services not offered using Zesa as a conduit.”