Lundazi and Chama districts in the Eastern Province of Zambia will for the first time since independence be connected to the ZESCO electricity grid at the end of December 2023, effectively ushering in a new dawn for the residents that have experienced decades of unreliable power supply which has retarded development.

ZESCO has reduced the cost of completing the connection of Chama and Lundazi to the national grid to about US $20 million from the initial $69 million after re-costing the works and also ensuring the project was done internally.

In 2017, ZESCO Limited started constructing the Chipata-Lundazi-Chama transmission extension project to connect the two border towns which relied on Malawi as their source of power.

The project includes construction of the 325km/132Kv line from Chipata West to Chama and the building of 132/33kV substations each at Mwasemphangwe, Lundazi, Chama, and Eggichikeni.

The US $69 million project whose construction period was initially designed for 24 months was, however, indefinitely shelved in 2020 after ZESCO Limited experienced turbulent financial times following Zambia’s default on its sovereign debt.

With the 325km/132Kv line transmission line already erected, the project was restarted following a resolution by the new ZESCO Corporate Leadership Team to restart it by using internal resources and its project management team.

“At re-costing it, we realized the project could be done at below US $35 million and so, we cancelled the contract and then we put our heads together and appointed a project manager,” ZESCO Managing Director Eng. Victor Mapani said when he toured the project sites in Lundazi and Chama.

“We are now sitting below US $20 million – saving a colossal US $34 million from the original US $54 million, and the revision of the project was done without compromising the expected quality.”

Eng. Mapani praised the ZESCO staff working on building the substations to complete the project for their dedication to duty and high quality workmanship.

“This project has been managed by 100 percent ZESCO in-house team, from engineers to electricians and labourers, and they are all from Lundazi. We disallowed the importation from other towns,” he said.

“What has been done on this project is nothing different from what the contractor from abroad came to do and that’s why our people deserve to be praised. We’ll definitely give them a bonus because we serve the nation and at the same time, save costs,” he added.

The Managing Director said the project had met key benchmarks of delivering key infrastructure projects at the correct price, timely and of good quality.

Residents of Chama and Lundazi have relied on power supply by ESCOM of Malawi and a ZESCO diesel-powered generator, resulting in the two districts having unreliable power supplies.

The unreliable electricity supply has not only been hampering development of agriculture and commerce, but continued to frustrate efforts to alleviate poverty and promote economic prosperity.

“The project has now seen the horizon and we are hoping that by the turn of this year, Chama and Lundazi will be connected to the national grid and will be using our own ZESCO power,” said Eng. Mapani.

“With this installation, we hope we will get a few investors to be encouraged to come here because now, there is firmer high voltage power,” said Eng. Mapani.