Zimbabwe News

ZESA plunges city in darkness after disconnecting tower lights in Bulawayo

ZESA Holdings has switched off Bulawayo tower lights from postpaid metering as it migrates to a prepaid model amid concerns by residents that this could plunge many suburbs into darkness if the Bulawayo City Council delays electricity bill payments.

Bulawayo residents say the tower lights are being disconnected for the first time in the city’s living memory.

Responding to questions from the Chronicle, ZESA Holdings said the transitioning of customers from postpaid to prepaid metering is expected to be completed next month. Said the power utility:

Tower lights were migrated from a postpaid metering system to a prepaid metering system. ZETDC started the national prepayment metering rollout project in 2012 targeting domestic and small commercial customers and has been conducting the exercise in phases since then.

We are now in the final phase of the project where we are mopping up all points that are still on postpaid metering countrywide as we aim to have all customers on the prepaid metering system by the end of June 2024.

To date over 93 percent of all postpaid customers have been migrated to the prepaid platform.

ZESA Holdings said it informed the City of Bulawayo about the imminent changes in the metering of customers.

However, Bulawayo town clerk, Christopher Dube, told the Chronicle that the local authority was not informed of the imminent disconnection until it was carried out. He said:

It has recently been brought to our attention that ZESA conducted an operation to replace conventional meters with prepaid meters without prior notification to the Department of Works.

This oversight has resulted in widespread blackouts throughout suburbs such as Entumbane, Nkulumane, Nketha, Makhandeni, Tshabalala, and Makokoba, greatly affecting access to essential services.

Approximately 90 tower lights have been affected, leaving many residents in the dark.

Dube said the council intends to have a meeting with ZETDC to ensure that the re-connection process is expedited. He said:

However, ZESA has been slow in providing the necessary balance to bring forward invoices, hindering our ability to expedite the re-connection process.

In response to this situation, we are in the process of arranging a meeting with the ZESA team to address this issue and ensure better communication and coordination in future operations.

It is crucial that such operations are conducted in phases and that relevant departments are informed to minimise disruptions in service delivery.

Dube said that the council will explore the possibility of replacing the grid-powered tower lights with solar-powered alternatives in the future.

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