THE high cost of electricity is causing animosity between some residents in Victoria Falls, especially those that share lodgings. Basically co-tenants contribute towards water and electricity tokens for a particular month.
In the past some would buy tokens that would last them more than one month but with the new charges introduced by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), some users find themselves in darkness before the month ends and have to top-up.
Most households have appliances and gadgets that include television sets, stoves and refrigerators. Other electricity consuming gadgets found in households are fans, irons, heaters, microwaves, toasters, air conditioners and electric jugs while others also occasionally use hair dryers.
Fans and air conditioners are widely used in Victoria Falls because of the high temperatures with some leaving them continuously running much to the chagrin of those they share the costs with.
Residents now literally monitor the types of gadgets owned by their co-tenants and for how long they are switched on in a particular day as they seek to minimise electricity usage.
ZETDC charges $1,63 for the first 50 units and $3,27 for 51-100kWh with each household given 300kWh subsidised units per month.
After the first 300 units electricity users start paying $10,28 per unit which consumers have said is too high because many exceed the subsidised units.
With many household resorting to solar power and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for cooking because electric stoves are considered high energy consumers. LPG gas now costs between US$1,25 and US$1,50 per kilogramme.
Fewer families are using electric stoves for cooking. Irons, microwaves and electric jugs are other appliances which people no longer use regularly.
A random survey in Victoria Falls showed that residents have packed away some of the supposedly high electricity consuming gadgets while some have clashed with co-tenants for wasting electricity.
Sometimes big families are made to pay more compared to those with fewer members.
“We contribute equal amounts of US$5 to buy electricity tokens but sometimes it doesn’t last us the whole month. We have engaged each other as tenants and no one would admit that they are responsible. So you will find that we pay more if we buy more than 300 units in the same (calendar) month,” said Mrs Emily Moyo, a Chinotimba resident.
Another resident from Mkhosana Mr Akim Nyoni said: “We are three tenants and we used to contribute an equivalent of US$5 each which would last us a month. Now it lasts about 20 days. We have agreed to use gas for cooking and we have stopped using irons, microwaves or toasters because that’s what cost us.”
Sometimes there are misunderstandings between tenants who go to work and those who remain at home.
“The best thing is to avoid buying electricity more than once in a month. We buy US$15 worth of electricity and I think it’s not about spending the whole day at home but what’s needed is proper budgeting as co-tenants because one can spend the day at work but when they come back they cook using a stove and iron their clothes. I have three tenants who go to work while I remain at home but we are careful about the appliances we use,” said Ms Estell Zulu from Mkhosana.
An electrician Mr Onward Mlilo said high energy consumers include heating appliances that use an element.
“Anything that produces heat through an element consumes more power. These could be stove, toaster, iron, microwave, electric kettle and heater and an air conditioner because most range from 1 500 to 2 000W,” he said.
According to Sustainable Energy For All, access levels to electricity in Zimbabwe is 16 percent in rural areas and 78 percent in urban areas.