Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) centre coordinator Chenai Mukumba says Zesco’s erratic load-shedding schedule will force small-scale businesses to shut down owing to heightened costs of production.

And Mukumba says Zesco must come up with a fixed load shedding schedule, explaining that the unpredictable power cuts are hurting small-scale business, which do not have alternative sources of power.

Last week, Zesco announced an extension to the ongoing countrywide load-shedding due to its failure to generate sufficient power for all its consumers.

The power utility did not, however, state the number of hours by which load-shedding would be extended.

But erratic power outages have hit most parts of Lusaka, among other areas of the country, of up to 10 hours in some instances.

Commenting on this development in an interview with News Diggers! Mukumba noted that the increased load-shedding schedule would force small-scale businesses to shut down owing to heightened costs of production.

“Definitely, it’s going to have a significant negative effect, not just on individuals, but also on the economy. Of course, from an individual’s point of view, what we will particularly see, especially for those that run Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the extended load-shedding is going to result in reduction in production. And when you look at those households that run saloons and barbershops, they will also be forced out of business because what you tend to find when small businesses are affected through load-shedding like that is that they begin to increase the cost of doing business and, ultimately, it’s consumers that are going to carry the brunt of that burden,” Mukumba said.

“Then also from an economic point of view, we are definitely going to see a reduction in productivity at national-level and particularly at this time when we are having to deal with a tight fiscal position and we actually needed to be putting in place measures to stimulate our economic growth. So, this is going to have a significant negative effect because we are now going in the opposite direction. I know there was some study that was done that indicated that…I think the last time when we had load-shedding of this nature, we saw a reduction in economic growth of about 20 per cent.”

And Mukumba insisted that Zesco needed to come up with a fixed load-shedding schedule to help people plan ahead amidst the ongoing power cuts.

“The issue of predictability is also very important because even though it’s a bad situation, at least if it’s predictable, then people can try and plan. But if Zesco isn’t even able to stick to the same schedule that they are putting out, it makes it even worse for people who are trying to rearrange their schedules to fit in that [time-table that Zesco has come up with]. I think they need to come with a schedule. It’s the least that Zesco could be doing in this scenario. Being able to give the citizens something which they can use to then work around, some sort of frame when they want to potentially be working and not wasting electricity is just essential. I think it’s not even a matter of ‘can they’, it’s something they (Zesco) need to be doing. Otherwise, it makes the situation even worse,” said Mukumba.