Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa says Zesco Plc is always faced with the task of mobilising finances to cover up the gap in financing requirements for new connections, leading to delays in connecting power to applicants’ premises.
Nkhuwa has, however, regretted that most people in rural areas do not have the financial resources to get their houses connected to electricity due to lack of sustainable income-generating ventures, but committed that government will empower rural communities economically.
He was responding to a question from Chipili Independent member of parliament Jewis Chabi, who wanted to know what the total number of applicants that had paid for electricity connections in Eastern; Muchinga; Northern; and Luapula provinces were.
In his question, Chabi also requested that Nkhuwa explain when the connections to the applicants’ premises would commence and what the cause of the delay in connecting power was.
In response, Nkhuwa said existing new connections charges that did not cover the actual full cost of effecting the connections was the cause because it was usually incurred by Zesco.
“Government through Zesco is currently implementing projects across the entire country to increase national access to electricity supply in line with the aspirations enshrined in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP). Through this initiative, it is envisioned that the quality of life for a large number of citizens, especially in the rural areas, will be uplifted as electricity is a key enabler for any meaningful, developmental economic activities. The following are the total numbers of paid-up applications for electricity connections: Eastern Province, 4,033; Muchinga Province has 2,137; Northern Province has 729; Luapula has 1,222. Government through Zesco endeavours to connect paid-up customers for new connections within a period of 90 days from the date of payment. Hence, Zesco is currently in a process of effecting new connections for customers falling in this category,” Nkhuwa explained.
“However, various constraints have contributed to the delays in effecting new connections for customers falling in the category of 90 days from the date of payment. The cause of delay in connecting power to the applicants’ premises has maybe been due to existing new connection charges that do not cover the actual full cost of effecting the same; that is usually incurred by Zesco. Zesco is always faced with the task of mobilising finances from other sources to cover up the gap in financing requirements for the new connections. Consultations with relevant stakeholders to effect cost reflective connection charges are currently in progress in order to create sustainability in the long-term. However, in short, medium-term, you may wish to note that Zesco has managed to mobilise financial resources to the tune of US $8 million to cover the financial gap of effecting new connections countrywide. A project to implement this initiative has already been packaged and is currently being implemented. This is envisaged to effectively accelerate the connection rate.”
He also disclosed that cooperating partners such as World Bank and JICA were helping Zesco through grants to increase the electricity and access rate through a project called ‘Increase Access to Electricity Supply.’
But in a follow up question, leader of the opposition in the House Jack Mwiimbu, who is also Monze Central UPND member of parliament, claimed that Zesco was restricting the number people accessing the connection of power under the World Bank-funded project.
“Madam Speaker, arising from the answer that has been given by the Minister of Energy, I would like to find out from him why Zesco has been restricting the number of people who are supposed to access the connection of power under the World Bank-funded project. We have received a letter through REA (Rural Electrification Authority) where they have indicated to us various areas including Luapula; Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces. But we are encountering problems where they are refusing to accept people to pay a subsidized fee under the World Bank-funded project, what is the problem, Mr minister?” asked Mwiimbu.
But in response, Nkhuwa dismissed Mwiimbu’s claims.
“I don’t think there is anything in that line. I remember one time I went to Southern Province and we did commission some electricity grid and we told the people right there that this is a charge that they are going to pay: K250 instead of K1,700. And as far as I am concerned, that is the position of government,” he replied.
Meanwhile, Nkhuwa regretted that most people in rural areas had no resources to allow them to get their houses connected to electric grid.
“I will give you a typical example of Shiwang’andu where we put one megawatt of a mini hydro and for about two years, the off-take has been about 25 per cent. Basically, people don’t have the little K250 to put on top of that. So, from where we are sitting, we know that we need to do a little more for the people of Zambia so that they can start earning; like the work that the government is doing to introduce farming blocks so that people can start earning money and then they will be able to have access to electricity,” observed Nkhuwa.