Commercial farmers across the country have bemoaned the move by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) to disconnect those who have not been paying for electricity consumed.
Unions representing farmers who spoke to Business Times said the ZESA disconnections have effectively hampered prospects of good yields.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe blamed delayed payments from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for farmers’ failure to pay ZESA on time. Said Makombe:
ZESA is not consistent. We understand farmers should pay because without payments ZESA would also find it difficult but now to disconnect farmers who have crops in the field does not make sense at all.
They should negotiate because those farmers are going to sell their produce and ZESA will then be paid.
They should make arrangements for those stakeholders, but it would appear some overzealous ZESA officers are acting contrary to arrangements on the ground.
…To disconnect them while the product is in the field is really kind of unproductive.
The chairperson for the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union in Mazowe, Daniel Chinyemba, said:
ZESA disconnections in conjunction with ZINWA irrigation pump locking are impacting badly on the Presidential and ARDA Inputs schemes which were launched to ensure food security to the nation.
Most farmers with functional irrigation schemes have not received their payment as yet for their wheat delivered to both GMB and several millers.
Farmers received only the ZWL component paid at the prevailing bank rate of ZWL$6 000 at that time whilst the black market was rating the dollar at ZWL$15 000 causing farmers to incur huge losses.
The ZWL component was supposed to be equivalent to 25% of their wheat sales but ended up being equivalent to less than 7% and the amount was insufficient to clear or even the electricity and ZINWA bills and many other obligations which faced the farmers.
He said farmers are still waiting for their payments from GMB and millers but service providers are cutting them off.
Chinyemba said due to the El-Nino-induced drought, the crop situation is dire and farmers are in a critical situation as they are failing to irrigate their crops as they are being cut off by ZESA and ZINWA.
A Ministry of Energy and Power Development official told Business Times that consumers should pay for electricity so that the power utility meets its electricity demand and pays import bills. Said the official:
ZESA is trying to make sure that it meets its obligations that include monthly instalments on repayment of Hwange expansion debt to avoid disconnections which has greatly increased the electricity situation in the country.
The complaints by farmers come as ZESA has embarked on an aggressive blitz which has no sacred cows. ZESA is reportedly owed US$300 million by customers.