Zesa disconnects Bulawayo tower lights ZETDC

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected]

THE power utility Zesa has switched off Bulawayo tower lights from postpaid metering as it migrates to a prepaid model. Residents fear that this could plunge many suburbs into darkness if council delays electricity bill payments. 

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) confirmed the development saying it started disconnecting the tower lights three weeks ago, leaving some areas in darkness with residents raising security concerns over the development.

The tower lights are being disconnected for the first time in the city’s living memory, residents have said.

Responding to Chronicle questions, Zesa Holdings said the disconnection of power was part of the ongoing transitioning in the metering of clients, which is expected to be completed next month.

“Tower lights were migrated from a postpaid metering system to a prepaid metering system. ZETDC started the national prepayment metering rollout project in 2012 targeting domestic and small commercial customers and have been conducting the exercise in phases since then,” said the utility.

“We are now in the final phase of the project where we are mopping up all points that are still on postpaid metering countrywide as we aim to have all customers on the prepaid metering system by the end of June 2024. To date over 93 percent of all postpaid customers have been migrated to the prepaid platform.”

The power utility said Bulawayo City Council was informed of the imminent changes in the metering of customers. However, Bulawayo town clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, said the local authority was not informed of the imminent disconnection until it was carried out.

He said this has resulted in at least 90 tower lights in western suburbs being disconnected and the council was working to rectify the situation.

Bulawayo Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube

“It has recently been brought to our attention that Zesa conducted an operation to replace conventional meters with prepaid meters without prior notification to the Department of Works,” said Mr Dube. 

“This oversight has resulted in widespread blackouts throughout suburbs such as Entumbane, Nkulumane, Nketha, Makhandeni, Tshabalala, and Makokoba, greatly affecting access to essential services. Approximately 90 tower lights have been affected, leaving many residents in the dark.”

Mr Dube said the council has started to engage ZETDC to ensure that power is restored at the disconnected tower lights. 

“However, Zesa has been slow in providing the necessary balance brought forward invoices, hindering our ability to expedite the re-connection process,” he said. 

“In response to this situation, we are in the process of arranging a meeting with the ZESA team to address this issue and ensure better communication and coordination in future operations. 

“It is crucial that such operations are conducted in phases and that relevant departments are informed to minimise disruptions in service delivery.”

Mr Dube said in the future council will consider replacing the grid-powered tower lights with solar-powered ones.

Bulawayo United Resident Association Mr Winos Dube said it was shocking and disappointing that the city’s tower lights have been switched off.

He said he has lived in Bulawayo for more than 50 years but it was the first time experienced the disconnection of tower lights. 

“I don’t recall such a thing ever happening. I have lived in this city for more than 50 years but I have never seen such a thing happening. We are disappointed and shocked to learn that Zesa has disconnected tower lights and street lights. 

“They play a major role in the city as they are part of security measures. We are already experiencing muggings, burglaries, and break-ins so without the tower lights our lives are being put at risk. Why would Zesa just disconnect without engaging us the stakeholders?

“We learned of this when one of the residents questioned a councillor on why the council was not fixing faulty tower lights, which were not functional for some time. So, the councillor responded by saying the tower lights were not faulty but had been disconnected by the power utility. 

“This is strange and disappointing behaviour and we will be making follow-ups with the responsible authorities,” said Mr Dube.

A security expert Mr Wilson Sibanda who runs, Saf-Custodia Security Services, said lighting is a very important part of security and its absence compromises public security.

“We advise our clients to ensure that their homes are properly lit. It is the first step towards safeguarding their homes and premises. Light scares away criminals but without lights, the security of individuals is compromised. 

“Tower lights and street lights play an important role especially when people are travelling at night, you can easily identify those who are approaching you and in case of a crime, you can also identify the suspect. 

“But without public lighting, suspects can easily vanish into the darkness. So, it’s a cause for concern to have a city that does not have street lights and tower lights,” said Mr Sibanda.

Meanwhile, ZETDC said it has addressed technical challenges, which saw some clients failing to buy electricity units following the transition from the Zimbabwe dollar to the newly introduced Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG).

“We, however, had some system challenges when we migrated from ZWL to ZiG billing where the system of registering the connected prepaid meters was down and customers could not purchase tokens,” said the utility. 

“We are glad to advise that the service is now back up, and we have managed to register most of the prepaid meters, and customers are now able to buy units.” — @nqotshili



You Might Also Like