BY SILAS NKALA
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has denied ownership of Hwange properties whose power supplies were recently cut off by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) over arrears.
ZETDC, a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings, recently disconnected several properties located in Hwange’s Ngumija high-density suburb, accusing NRZ of failing to pay for their power supplies.
However, NRZ spokesperson Nyasha Maravanyika yesterday said the company was not obliged to pay anything to Zesa since it no longer owns the properties in question.
“Those houses were sold to the tenants, so NRZ has no obligation to pay bills for them,” Maravanyika said.
“The only problem is that those people after buying the houses did not install new electricity meters and ZETDC has continued to direct bills to NRZ.
“Our teams will be going down there to clarify issues so that ZETDC ensures the change of meters and directs the bills to those people,” he said.
A resident who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted that some of the houses were sold to them by the NRZ.
“The houses were sold. There are 134 stands and 125 were sold. They are privately owned. We even used to pay even for water but people started refusing to pay because they were not getting water,” the resident said.
Another resident said: “After we bought the houses, we had an agreement with NRZ in which they would keep paying electricity bills and we would pay to them. There has not been a formal handover to ZETDC. They still charge us. We pay at the goods office and we have receipts from them. The same day they disconnected they were making monthly meter readings and when the electricity went they were at my place.”
Most residents at the properties are former NRZ workers.
Greater Hwange Residents Trust coordinator Fidelis Chima also said they petitioned Parliament last year and appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Local Government over service delivery by the NRZ, Hwange Colliery Company and Zimbabwe Power Company. “Service delivery issues should fall under a local authority to avoid such a situation taking place at NRZ properties. These companies are struggling and cannot afford to provide services, their workers are poorly paid,” Chima said.
ZETDC acting western region general manager Lloyd Jaji confirmed the disconnections although he refused to be drawn into disclosing the amount owed by the NRZ.
“The power supply will remain cut unless they pay or come up with a payment plan. We wanted to shut down Zesa from all the people who owe us so that people refrain from not paying their electricity bills. However, because we are very low on transport we are doing it bit by bit,” Jaji said.
“The debt is now running into millions but because of confidentiality contract we have, l cannot disclose the exact amount to the public without the customers’ consent.”