AT noon today, 12th April 2010, approximately 1,000 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise marched to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) offices in Bulawayo. Their aim was to deliver yellow cards to the electricity service provider for poor service and high tariffs. No arrests have been reported to date.
Four simultaneous protests converged on the Lobengula Street offices but officials quickly closed the gates and locked the doors, refusing to come out to receive the ‘yellow card’. The peaceful protests were mobilised after members decided they needed to put direct pressure on ZESA to provide a more efficient service and fair and affordable billing system.
The issue of ZESA needing a telling-off seemed to have wide support and both vendors and bystanders joined in the protest. The protestors sang a popular song: ZESA – into oyenzayo siyizonda (ZESA we hate this thing you are doing). Police officers who responded on foot and by vehicle were heard to support the protest through direct comments to WOZA members. One police officer said to a member, “you are back from telling ZESA off? Well done keep it up.”
As the peaceful group tried to persuade ZESA officials to come out and received the yellow cards, business activities in the ZESA building and at the police headquarters opposite came to a halt, with staff seen peering over the walls and out of windows supporting the protest. A ZESA employee was overheard saying, “maybe we will get paid on time now because of this pressure.”
WOZA leaders knocked at the door to the offices for over 15 minutes trying to get the ZESA officials to come and receive the ‘yellow cards’. People dressed up as ‘bosses’ were seen converging at the reception giving instructions to the receptionist and also trying to call on their mobile phones. They refused to come to the door to receive the ‘yellow cards’, but once these were posted under the door, they quickly came to collect them. The thousand-strong procession then dispersed, walking calmly past the police vehicle, which was parking to monitor the protest. 11 police officers just stood and watched. After the crowd had dispersed a ZESA employee came out and started to kick the placards onto the street but a police officer told him to stop and pick them up nicely. The same vehicle was then seen driving around town for 30 minutes monitoring the dispersing of members, including the tailing of WOZA leaders, Williams and Mahlangu.
The ‘yellow card’ for ZESA comes with a warning to shape up their service during the month of May or face a ZERO service ZERO bill boycott of payments from 1st June 2010. Members using fixed meters advised ZESA that the current service only deserved a US$5 payment rather than the current level of payment calculated for a full service.
Along with the warning members are only willing to pay US$15 for 24 hours 7 days a week service. Consumers are aware of an ongoing consultative process to look at tariffs. This process is at the public hearing stage hosted by the parliament appointed Competition and Tariff Commission. The card serves as a months notice to shape up or face ‘suspension’.
WOZA is a community based social movement of 70,000 members countrywide and as such have capacity to mobilise a boycott.
To read a copy of the WOZA ‘yellow card’, click here: ZESA yellow card
For a full copy of WOZA’s report on electricity services in Zimbabwe, click here: WOZA report on ZESA – April 2010