President Edgar Lungu has fired National Planning and Development Minister Lucky Mulusa with immediate effect.

According to a statement issued by Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda today, President Lungu has also revoked Mulusa’s nomination to Parliament.

“His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia has terminated the services of Hon Lucky Mulusa as National Planning Minister and also revoked his nomination as Member of Parliament with immediate effect,” stated Chanda.

A few months ago, Mulusa mocked the 42 fire trucks which were bought for US$42 million saying they looked like wheelbarrows.

And in his recent interview, Mulusa said the power deficit Zambia experienced in 2015 was as a result of poor decisions by technocrats in government, contrary to what President Lungu and other Cabinet ministers had been saying.

Below is the full story as carried in today’s print edition of News Diggers:

Govt to blame for load-shedding not low rainfall – Mulusa

National Planning and Development minister Lucky Mulusa says Zambia was plunged into an energy crisis because of poor decisions by government technocrats, and not because of low rainfall as President Edgar Lungu and other ministers claimed.

And Mulusa says the PF will not stop borrowing in 2018 but will only borrow for income generating projects.

Meanwhile, Mulusa has boasted that the Seventh National Development Plan has already raised US$350 million before it is implemented because donors believe it is one of the best plans ever generated in Africa.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Government Forum on Monday, Mulusa said some of the bad decisions made by government technocrats which led to load-shedding needed to be subjected to commissions of inquiry because they caused several deaths of innocent children in hospitals.

Mulusa was responding to a question from show host Chitalu Mulenga who wanted to know why government was fond of making promises which it failed to deliver.

“The reason is simple. Lack of a performance management system in the government. So there is no accountability. People go for work, they can go for lunch any time that they want, they can not deliver on the expected obligations and nobody takes them to account because they never signed any performance agreements at all. And we are addressing that. Two things that have actually been driving the delays that you are talking about, the lack of implementation and this is very costly to the economy. Procrastination, wrong attitude by those that are tasked to perform in order to take the country forward. I will give you an example, let’s take the time that we had an energy crisis, we were down by 580 megawatts of electricity in terms of deficit and Maamba Collieries came up with a project which was supposed to produce 300 megawatts of electricity meaning that we were going to cut down our deficit by more than 50 per cent. That project was unnecessarily delayed for over 12 months. It wasn’t delayed by politicians or presidents, it was delayed by civil servants, people in Zesco,” Mulusa said.

“When Maamba Collieries came to my office, by then I was at State House as Special Assistant to the President for Project Implementation and Monitoring, I simply asked them to give me a simple power point presentation of the activities that needed to be undertaken and by who and the consequences of the delayed. Armed with that power point presentation, I visited every single office of the officers that were mentioned that needed to move the files and you know what I found? We found that one director at Ministry of Finance had the previous November actually thrown away the file, just threw it behind his bookshelf and shouted at the Maamba Collieries official to say that is not the way he works, he doesn’t like being pushed so when I went to his office, I told him that ‘the record shows that this file was last seen in your office in November on this day. Where is the file?’ the guy started looking around and this official from Maamba Collieries actually pointed that ‘you threw it there and it fell behind that bookshelf’. He went there and he collected it and it was full of dust. I looked at him and I told him ‘do you really deserve to be here?’ then I made him do what he needed to do whilst I was standing in his office and I took that file to all the other officials who were supposed to work on it.”

He said within a month, the project was actualised but the energy generated by it could not be utilised because Zesco officials had not upgraded the transmission lines.

“And within two weeks, it was resolved and within a month, the President was commissioning 150 megawatts of electricity. Now here is the killer, a month later, the other 150 was commissioned but what was shocking was that we couldn’t evacuate that net 260 megawatts of electricity because we couldn’t energise the line. Why? Because the line from Batoka to Kafue had not been upgraded. You can imagine, Maamba Collieries was creating 300 megawatts of electricity capacity and that line could only carry about 133 megawatts and it was already carrying some power net of 67 [megawatts]. So we could only evacuate 67 megawatts of electricity out of 260, delayed by six civil servants and a number of people in Zesco,” Mulusa said.

“So you start asking, where was Zesco when Maamba Collieries was creating 300 megawatts of electricity? Zesco started upgrading the line after we had created the 300 megawatts of electricity. Those few civil servants drove the slow down in economic growth by almost six per cent and that is huge. We lost about US$1.2 billion. We need to start tackling the issue of attitude because the issue of attitude is actually worse than corruption. The amount of money this country loses as a result of procrastination and wrong attitudes outstrips the amount of money we lose through corruption.”

He also said it was wrong to attribute the 2015/2016 power deficit to droughts because the Zambezi River Authority released water from the dam without predicting poor rainfall like they should have done.

“The other example that I can give is wrong decision making by our technocrats. If you look at the power generation that we lost at Kariba, you can’t even blame it on low levels of rainfall, it wasn’t. if you recall, the Lozis in Western Province, they never prepared to do Kuomboka, why? Because using traditional knowledge, they knew that they weren’t going to have enough rainfall to undertake that. But our technocrats both from Zimbabwe and Zambia decided to release water from the Kariba Dam, billions and billions of litres were released because they felt that the next rainfall will make the water levels breach the carrying capacity of the dam. They released so much water and when it didn’t rain, we didn’t have water to generate electricity and that is what drove to the drop in electricity generation to 580 megawatts. So you realise that we have got wrong decisions being made by our technocrats and it is costing us a lot. Procrastination, wrong attitudes, it is costing us a lot,” he said.

And responding to a question from one of the callers who branded Zesco negligent, Mulusa said some of the decisions made by technocrats were supposed to be subjected to inquiries.

“I agree with you. Let me just make one correction, the authority that released the billions of litres of water from Kariba Dam was Zambezi River Authority. Zesco’s fault lies in inability to accompany the project at Maamba Collieries with increasing carrying capacity at Batoka to Kafue. It was actually criminal that Zesco could have started increasing the capacity of the grid after 300 megawatts of electricity was created. In fact, I agree with you, some of these shortcomings by our institutions call for commissions of inquiry because we lost a lot of children in our hospitals who died as a result of black outs. Our youths who are running salons and barbershops lost a lot of business. And you are right, we lost a lot of FDI because would-be investors simply went away. And you are right, we had to import electricity. Can you imagine? We had that much electricity available and we were importing at 18 cents per KW. So when you aggregate all the losses, it was billions lost by individuals, collectively, the government, ZRA and also lost job opportunities for our people. It is a serious concern which needs to be addressed and it will be addressed through robust performance frameworks which we are creating for everybody,” Mulusa said.

But when asked if any action had been taken, Mulusa replied in the negative saying no one had focused on the real cause of the power deficit.

“No action has been, you know why? We were followed by two seasons of low rainfall and everybody just went up to blaming it on low rainfall. No one went deeper and said ‘a dam is a reservoir but what happened to the role of the dam as the reservoir? Because the reason you have a dam is precisely to take care of those moments of low rainfall, to store enough water’. And when you ask ‘have heads rolled?’ They have not rolled because nobody has gone beyond. I have only heard one person comment about it and that is Mr Bernard Chiwala, the former RDA CEO. He is the only one I have heard point out that that was the big reason. Should heads roll? At least we need to review. We need to ask ourselves questions, how come the lozis using traditions knowledge beat us at the game?” Mulusa asked.

And Mulusa said PF would continue borrowing in 2018.

“And on the loan, the general public has expressed concern that we should slow down on borrowing and what we have done, instead of slowing down on borrowing, we have decided to make sure that the borrowings that we acquire are those that create cash flows and create reproductive capacity in the economy so that the economy is not overburdened and those loans will be limited to the projects. For instance, the Kalungwishi project will create a lot of jobs and it has been planned in such a way that that money will be repaid from that farming block alone,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mulusa boasted that the 7NDP was receiving a lot of donor support.

“Let me take this opportunity to let everybody know that the African Union as well as the UN have considered that plan as the best plan ever generated in Africa and they have recommended about six countries to come and learn. So the plan itself, before we even start implementing, is actually contributing to the diversification of the economy because when we have six countries coming to learn, they are coming in as tourists. They are bringing in dollars. So on its own, the plan has already started earning an income before its even implemented. By reading it, the World Bank has bought into it and when we ask for money, we are being given quite a lot of money. Right now we have managed to generate US$350 million just on the back of confidence that that plan has generated in the donor community and another US$380 million of donor funding is in the pipeline. So it is already contributing to income generation before it is implemented,” said Mulusa.