‘Sell off ZESA debt at a discount to avert total collapse’

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By Anna Chibamu

AS the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA)’s poor capacity to generate enough power challenge continues, Goromonzi North legislator Ozias Bvute has urged Energy Minister Fortune Chasi to consider selling off the utility’s debt at a discount to contain the struggling firm’s critical cash flow problem.

Bvute made the call during debate in parliament over the current power crisis Wednesday.

He urged Chasi to consider the option as ZESA struggles to collect its debt from consumers and is failing to pay its arrears.

“In view of the ongoing cash flow challenges at ZESA, would the Minister as a matter of policy, consider selling the ZESA debt at a discount for purposes of cash flowing the current deficit condition that he finds himself in to alleviate the power problem?” said Bvute.

In a later interview with Thursday, Bvute acknowledged that the ZESA debt which currently stands at $1.2 billion could be discounted at $800 million so that the power company gets instant cash to pay off Cahora Bassa and Eskom debt of about $80 million.

The MP stated the sale of the arrears would allow for power imports allowing for productivity and avert a complete collapse of industry as well as reducing the diesel burden that has shot up and is recurrent needing to be paid for every day, thereby causing strain.

“ZESA should ask someone to give them $800 million now and have the problem of collecting cash,” he said.

Minister Chasi said a day before day that he was looking at various models of dealing with the debt to ZESA.

“ZESA needs money like yesterday. We need to increase the number of people who are on pre-paid meters in order to manage the demand or consumption of power.

“We are working on improving or increasing the tariff so that it reflects the cost of generating or importing power. There must be a serious relationship between generation of power and the rate at which people are charged to consume that power even though ZESA was not yet at a point where the majority of consumers are on meters,” Chasi said.

Zimbabwe is now in its 6th week since load shedding was introduced and the minister has warned the situation might worsen.