09 September 2013, Harare – Zimbabwe’s ZESA Holdings has started installing prepaid meters in farming areas, a move which has seen many farmers complaining. The utility contracted another company, Finmark, to carry out the installations. Finmark project manager Mr O’ Brian Chigwedere said the company had several teams that were installing prepaid meters in farming areas.
“We have teams in different areas and we have covered some farms in Norton, Chegutu and Chinhoyi and were expecting to start installing in some parts of Karoi this week,” he said.
Some farmers have already started complaining about the development as they said the system was not sustainable in farming areas.
The farmers said they have been struggling to produce under high production costs and the introduction of prepaid meters was going to further erode their earnings.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said most farmers have been disconnected as they failed to settle bills to the high tariffs.
“Farming is a different sector as farmers only get money after selling their produce. It is not possible to pay for electricity in advance because of cash constraints. With absence of affordable funding from banks, many farmers will not be able to irrigate their crops, “he said.
Mr Chabikwa said the farming sector needed a sympathetic ear.
“We produce raw materials for the manufacturing and processing sector and this development will not only affect us but the whole value chain,” he said.
He said the former commercial farmers were subsidised 45 percent of the electricity costs but nowadays farmers were expected to perform under high electricity tariffs.
“There is nowhere in the world where farmers pay for electricity in advance. Food production will suffer greatly and we may end up importing food,” he said.
An affected Norton farmer Mr Themba Mancana of Elstone Estate said farmers were not notified of the developments.
“If we were notified in time we could have planned adequately. We had made budgets for the next tobacco season and the installation of the pre-paid meters will affect production,” he said.
Other farmers said Zesa officials had informed them that when they pay for electricity, 20 percent will be deducted to settle their debts but this was not the case.
Some farmers complained that the utility was now deducting 50 percent of the payment.
– The Herald