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Govt taken to task over the slow pace of rural electrification

Legislators have taken the government to task over the slow pace at which rural electrification is progressing despite having some funds dedicated to the programme.

Speaking during a question and answer session in Parliament Wednesday Mwenezi West lawmaker Priscilla Moyo questioned Energy and Power Development Minister, Magna Mudyiwa why rural electrification was seemingly at a standstill.

“My question is directed to the Minister of Energy and Power Development and in his absence, I will redirect the question to the Deputy Minister,” said Moyo. 

“Why has it taken so long for the Ministry to electrify the rural areas including schools?”

In her response, Mudyiwa said: “For rural electrification, we have got the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) or the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) that are responsible for electrifying those institutions but REA is underfunded – that is one thing.  They depend on a 6% levy from ZESA to do all those programmes.  So funding is one thing that is affecting the rural electrification programme of all schools and institutions in the rural areas.

She added that the major challenge was the underfunding of REA, adding some institutions were being built without the incorporation of electrification plans.

“Then people start to think about electrification after the institution is running.  So REA is always under pressure and is failing to cope,” said Mudyiwa.

But Peter Moyo was not convinced.

“I asked this question because REA is self-funded,” said Moyo.  “All Zimbabweans are contributing towards rural electrification.  What is the problem for the government to use that money?  Where is that money going?  Who is using the money that is intended for the rural people?  That is my question exactly; we do not need any funding from anywhere because we have been contributing money towards that.”

He added: “So why is it taking too long?  Which rural areas have they done?  We want to know Madam Speaker because when ministers are appointed to do these things, they must do them diligently and they must put their effort into making sure that the money that is being contributed by people is used for the intended purpose and not to divert that money to other uses.  We are funding that project and want to see it moving as soon as possible.”

Mudyiwa, however, insisted that the REA funding was inadequate.

Umzingwane legislator Levy Mayihlome also further questioned the deputy minister. “The Deputy Minister cannot come here and blame everyone else except themselves,” he said. 

“What has the Ministry and ZESA done to import and substitute some of the things that they are saying they cannot bring into the country because of foreign currency constraints?  In some constituencies, we have up to 20 schools without electricity and transformers need to be replaced. Conductors and poles just need to be purchased and they are sourced from Manicaland.  We are told that poles are being exported and ZESA cannot buy those poles.  What is it that they are doing themselves?”

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