The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has halted disconnecting customers, a shift in policy that had been developed because of a epidemic of customers not paying thjeir bills.
ZESA, the state-owned power company that is Zimbabwe's sole electricity generator and supplier for the nation's public grid, stopped the process of disconnections of both domestic and commercial customers while it is in the process of installing prepaid meters, Zimbabwe's Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma said.
The minister said that for the last 15 years Zimbabwe has been experiencing power shortfalls, caused by a lack of investment, which has stymied production of additional capacity against rising load growth across all sectors in the economy.
Mangoma added, however, that ZESA's policy of installing prepaid electrical meters didn't mean that electricity consumers should stop paying their bills, as they would still be required to pay after the new meters were installed.
Officially launching the prepaid meter program in Harare, Mangoma said that ZESA customers disconnected for not paying their electricity bills would be reconnected to the smart meters without a down payment or reconnection fee.
"With the coming of the new system, no one will be disconnected, but this does not stop you from settling your bills now," Mangoma said in a report in The Herald newspaper. "It is for your good to continue settling your debts because when the meter is installed, the bill would have accumulated."
He said 19,000 prepaid meters have been installed and another 19,000 are to be installed in the next month.
"Payment for electricity will be made easier, as electricity can be purchased from ZESA outlet," Mangoma said. "It will soon be available in supermarkets.
"There will be no need for meter readers to get into your houses and consumers will not receive hefty and frightening bills."
Non-payment for electricity has long been a problem in Zimbabwe. Mangoma last February said some customers haven't paid power bills since 2009. He said ZESA offered payment plans but some customers still failed to pay and the utility was forced to sever service.
"Power disconnections are currently being applied 'wholesomely' to ensure that all customer categories meet their obligation of paying for service rendered," he said at the time. "All customers currently in arrears run the risk of disconnections."
The delay of paying electrical bills may be linked to the government's mismanagement of the economy, which in July 2008 had produced an inflation rate of to 231 million percent, Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office said.
Driven by soaring food prices, in 2009 the government abandoned the nation's old currency. At the time that the Zimbabwean government issued its data, the economy had imploded nearly 50 percent over the previous decade, leading ZESA customers to hoard shrinking fiscal reserves.