Monday, April 23, 2018

Zesa, OK Mart Byo in nasty legal battle

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LOCAL stock-exchange-listed supermarket group, OK Zimbabwe, has approached the High Court seeking an interdict barring the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) from turning off power at OK Mart Bulawayo branch over a disputed energy bill.
BY CHARLES LAITON
The legal battle came after ZETDCaccused OK Zimbabwe of tampering with a smart meter at its main branch which resulted in the power utility ordering the retailer to pay $158 444 or risk electricity disconnection.
“There is a dispute between the parties relating to some anomalies, which were allegedly discovered by the respondent (ZETDC) on the smart meters at the applicant’s (OK Zimbabwe) premises. This dispute culminated in the respondent threatening to disconnect electricity in the event that the applicant fails to pay the sum of $158 444, being prejudice it suffered as a result of the applicant tempering with a meter,” OK’s finance executive, Brian Muradzikwa, in his founding affidavit filed at the High Court last Friday, said.
“The applicant has thus, approached this court for an order interdicting and restraining the respondent, its agents, proxies or employees from disconnecting electricity supply to the applicant pending the determination of the application for a declaratur.”
In a separate application, Muradzikwa again said: “This is an application for an order declaring that section 4(1) of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Miscellaneous Charges) by-laws 1988 as read with section 65(1) of the Electricity Act contravenes the applicant’s rights of access to the courts as protected under section 69(3) of the Constitution and the right to administrative justice protected under section 68(1) of the Constitution.”
The retailer’s executive further said over the years, his firm has relied singularly on the electricity supplied by the ZETDC to run its operations and given the importance of electricity to its business, it has made it a point to settle all bills received from the power utility timeously.
“The applicant’s branch in dispute is not an ordinary supermarket, but a wholesale supermarket, which means that all the goods there are sold in bulk. The applicant has a variety of perishable goods stocked at OK Mart Bulawayo branch, which are stored in refrigerators and it will have nowhere to store these products if the respondent disconnects the electricity supply,” Muradzikwa said.
He said on April 13, 2018, OK Zimbabwe wrote to ZETDC highlighting that the threat to disconnect electricity supply was illegal in light of the apparent dispute regarding the meter.
Muradzikwa further said his company was also challenging the provisions of the Electricity Act, which allows the power utility to disconnect electricity without notice because it does not provide for an exception where an electricity bill is disputed by the consumer.
“It is (the Act) thus, contrary to the due process guarantee entrenched in the right of access to the courts because it does not allow disputes to be resolved in a fair and public hearing.
“I also believe that the provision is a violation of the applicant’s right to administrative justice. By empowering the respondent to disconnect electricity without notice even where a dispute exists, it allows the respondent to conduct itself in a manner that is unfair, unreasonable and unprocedural,” he said.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.