THE Bulawayo City Council has renewed efforts to take over the Bulawayo Thermal Power
Station from Zesa after failing to contain a ballooning electricity bill.
Council owes Zesa more than $30 million, which has led to the disconnection of the local authority’s centres of operation, the Tower Block and the Revenue Hall, from the power grid.
The Bulawayo thermal power station, built by council, became part of Zesa in 1987 after the amalgamation of all the Local Authority Electricity Undertakings.
According to the latest council finance and development report, in a recent meeting to discuss the bill, the Town Clerk Mr Middleton Nyoni suggested that the only way out of the debt crisis was for council to put more energy into regaining the Bulawayo power station from Zesa.
“Council should consider making concerted efforts for the return of the Bulawayo Power Station,” said Mr Nyoni.
In the debate that ensued, Councillor Paul Malaba of Ward 4 suggested that council should have pre-paid electricity meters installed at its facilities to prevent the bill from growing.
In response to questions the acting financial director, Ms Conny Ncube ’s view was that cash power service was feasible in schools and clinics.
She noted that the bulk of the Zesa bill was from council’s water works, which accrued a monthly bill of $1,2 million.
In an interview yesterday, the city’s Mayor, Councillor Thaba Moyo, said council’s ultimate goal was to take over the power station from Zesa.
“The city built that power station out of ratepayers’ money. Zesa is even failing to maintain it. When it used to be run by council, rates were low because we could sell the extra power to other cities and put the money in a tariff maintenance fund. I am at an energy conference in Harare and I am pleased to say the UCAZ (Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe) chairman, Alderman Fermius Chakabuda, said Government should urgently consider giving back Harare and Bulawayo its power stations,” said Clr Moyo.
He said it did not make sense for Zesa to continue threatening council when it was sitting on an expensive asset belonging to the local authority.
Last month Zesa gave council an ultimatum to clear its bill or risk having more council facilities disconnected.
The local authority reportedly reached a deal with the power company at the last minute, to pay an undisclosed amount every month.
Recently State Enterprises and Parastatals Minister Gorden Moyo, said his Ministry and that of Energy and Power Development was at an advanced stage of reaching an agreement of returning the running of the Bulawayo thermal power station to the Bulawayo City Council.
He said if council assumes the running of the power station it would oversee its administration as well as its operation thus meaning residents would pay less tariffs as they participated in the construction of the infrastructure through payment of rates.
The power utility first cut off electricity the Tower Block and the Revenue Hall in January 2011 after council failed to settle a S$7 million bill.
Council has reportedly been using about 200 litres of diesel daily to power generators that provide electricity to the two buildings, since then.
Council has in the past, indicated that it was actually cheaper to use generators than pay for electricity.
In June 2011 Zesa threatened to sue council over the ballooning bill.
At the time it was about $9,2 million.