By BRANDON JOSPHAT

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has given power utility Zesa the green light to bill exporters in US dollars to enable the under pressure company to generate foreign currency and improve power supply in the country.

In a statutory instrument that was recently published in the Government Gazette, the RBZ said exporters could now purchase electricity from Zesa in advance.

This comes as the power utility is failing to generate adequate electricity for the nation, citing high demand for power during the winter wheat season, vandalism and a lack of hard currency to import critical parts for its creaky plants and other infrastructure.

“Zesa shall be allowed to bill in US dollars or the equivalent in Euro or any other currency denominated under the exchange rate control order at the international cross rate prevailing on the date of payment for the supply of electricity by Zesa to exporters and partial exporters,” RBZ said.

The central bank also said any designated consumer of electricity could enter into a contract or memorandum of agreement with Zesa to pay in advance for the supply of electricity.

“A copy of the contract or memorandum of agreement should be submitted to Zera (Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority) and the Reserve Bank prior to implementation.

“Foreign currency received by Zesa in terms of this order should be deposited in a foreign currency account opened and operated with any authorised dealer,” read part of the gazette.

The apex bank also emphasised that Zesa must utilise the money realised to import electricity and upgrade its infrastructure to prevent power losses.

“Zesa shall not make any withdrawals or payments from any foreign currency account referred to … without prior written approval of the minister responsible for Finance and the minister responsible for Energy.

“The amount accrued in the account shall be used and applied for the purchasing of electricity outside Zimbabwe.

“Importation of spare parts, critical assets and components needed to maintain the local generation, transmission, distribution and retail infrastructure of the electricity network to ensure sustainable supply,” the SI added.

This comes after ordinary consumers, business and civil society recently expressed fear that the country’s unrelenting power cuts would lead to fresh waves of price increases in the country and a further deterioration of the local economy.

The spokesperson of the National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora), Effie Ncube, was among the people who told the Daily News then that the worsening power outages would inflict more economic pain on ordinary people and businesses.

“The interruption of energy supply is pushing businesses to use diesel to power refrigerators, which — in turn — is driving up the cost of doing business.

“In turn, businesses pass that burden to consumers in the form of higher prices. The situation is driving up the cost of living and eroding the meagre incomes of consumers who are already struggling.

“So, there is therefore an urgent need for stakeholders to find a sustainable and reliable solution to the interruption of electricity supply,” Ncube said.

On his part, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Kurai Matsheza, also said companies were reeling from a host of challenges, including the relentless power outages.

“The shortage of energy really disrupts business operations. Industries cannot run machinery to produce products without power.

“We have spoken to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and they said they have a problem at Hwange Power Station, which is not running efficiently to generate the required electricity.

“Although they said they are working on fixing the problem, for us as industrialists it strains us. We have bills to pay and employees to pay,” Matsheza bemoaned.

“Our employees are coming to work and just sitting instead of producing, and yet at the end of the month they would still need to be paid their full salaries.

“With the current situation, two things are likely to happen. Goods will disappear from the market because we are not producing, and prices will go up further because really businesses, no matter the situation, have to survive,” he added. – Daily News