COPPERBELT Energy Corporation (CEC) chief executive officer Owen Silavwe has hailed the High Court ruling overturning Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa’s declaration of its infrastructure as a common carrier, saying it would positively impact investor confidence and investment in the company.
Last Friday, Lusaka High Court Judge Elita Mwikisa quashed Nkhuwa’s decision to declare CEC’s transmission and distribution lines as a common carrier.
According to her findings, Judge Mwikisa said that CEC was not fairly treated by Nkhuwa, who arbitrarily used his powers to declare its transmission and distribution lines as common carrier without giving CEC a chance to negotiate terms and conditions for the use of its infrastructure.
Commenting on the development, Silavwe said the decision now gave the power utility an opportunity to put in place commercial contracts that would positively impact the company’s business portfolio and energy sector in general.
“So, the way we see it on our side is that it restores the company’s property and commercial rights, it basically gives us back the ability to negotiate commercial contracts because we want to use our infrastructure, I think in sort of a fair manner. For us, that’s the most important thing that it does, and overall, I think what’s important is that it creates an opportunity for all the parties to take advantage and be able to work together in good faith to put commercial contracts in place because that’s what is actually required. I mean, it’s difficult to do business without contracts that underpin the transactions between the parties. So, what we do think is that it gives that opportunity to take advantage to work together in good faith to put in place the required commercial contract,” Silavwe said in an interview.
He said that the company’s infrastructure was available to be utilised by interested parties, but only on the basis of mutually-agreed contractual terms and conditions, adding that Zesco Limited was welcomed to continue engaging CEC provided that negotiations were done in good faith.
“That’s why the infrastructure is there, it’s supposed to be used, but what’s important is that all parties should get to the negotiating table, take advantage of this atmosphere that has been cleared because this is really the business atmosphere, this is an atmosphere that gives investors’ confidence to invest in business. So, as CEC, we love it when people use our infrastructure, but we want them to use our infrastructure on the basis of mutually-agreed or mutually-negotiated and agreed terms and conditions,” said Silavwe.
“So, we don’t have a problem with Zesco using our infrastructure because we also do need to use Zesco’s infrastructure, but what we need is to have those sort of good faith negotiations so that we come to a conclusion and enable commercial contracts to be put in place and then guide the business relationship between all parties.”
On May 29, 2020, Nkhuwa promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) Number 57 of 2020 declaring CEC infrastructure as common carrier, a move widely rebuked by the Kitwe-based power utility, together with several other stakeholders, as undermining the company’s commercial rights.
The SI had the effect of blocking CEC from accessing Zesco’s power infrastructure and affected the company’s commercial viability.