19 October 2012 – The Herald of Zimbabwe reports that Zesa Holdings gave two firms contracted to supply prepaid meters a two week ultimatum to deliver or lose their contracts. ZTE Corporation, a Chinese company, and Nyamazela of South Africa were expected to deliver a combined 12,000 of prepaidmeters earlierin 2012.

The meters were supposed to be used for Zesa’s pilot project on the installation of prepaid meters.Zesa officials said ZTE only delivered 2,000 prepaid meters by plane in early October after the ultimatum was issued.

Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) managing director Julian Chinembiri says, “We have written to the two (companies) because the meters should have been supplied long ago.We have given them 14 days to deliver the meters because we want to move forward with the project. If they fail, then we are left with no option but to contract other suppliers.”

Zesa needs about US$60 million to install prepaid meters countrywide. ZETDC senior project manager Wilfred Shereni said it was expecting 35,000 meters in October2012 from local companies Solahart and Finmark. “We are expecting 20,000 prepaid meters from Solahart while Finmark will bring close to 15,000 before the end of this month.”

Zimbabwe has 600,000 registered electricity consumers that should have prepaid meters in place within the next 10 months.Zesa has installed 32,000 meters in Harare and Bulawayo since the project started in August 2012.Installation is expected to start soon in other areas.

Chinembiri said plans were under way to appoint third party vending platforms for consumers to buy credit for prepaid meters.At the moment, credit vending points are in selected ZETDC offices in Harare and Bulawayo.Minimum denominations for recharge cards are US$5.

The smart meters replace the conventional billing system that poses challenges to the power utility and the consumers.Consumers have refused to settle their bills, arguing Zesa’s billing system was based on estimates. Under the prepaid meter system, those owing Zesa will have 20% of the amount paid for electricity deducted to settle the debt.Zesa is owed more than US$600 million by domestic and commercial consumers. The poor debt management system has also seen Zesa struggling to settle foreign debts.