Energy Minister David Mabumba says Zesco and the Zambezi River Authority are not to blame for the 2015 power deficit.

A day before he was fired as Minister of National Planning and Development, Lucky Mulusa blamed government technocrats for the power deficit that hit the country in 2015 saying had they made better decisions, the country would not have lost colossal sums of money.

“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,” said Mulusa.

“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.”

Reacting to Mulusa’s revelations in a statement yesterday, Mabumba insisted that climate change led to the power deficit adding that some people were peddling lies out of ignorance.

“Dear colleagues. I have an article that claims the power deficit we experienced in 2015 was due to the inefficiencies at Zesco and ZRA. The truth for those that still doubt is that the power deficit was attributed to climate change. The water levels in both the Kariba Dam and Kafue hydro plants we’re below the required threshold and that caused reduced generation and resulted in loading shedding. The parliamentary committee on Energy at the time visited Kariba dam to assess the water situation,” Mabumba stated.

“Climate change for those that are not aware is real. Today as we speak Malawi lost 50% of their generation and our border towns that are supplied by ESKOM such as Chama and Lundazi we’re being load shedded for about 25 hours. So those that want to argue for political expediency are free to do so because I have provided undisputable facts. Last week I issued a similar article way before the recent publication.”

He said government had turned the crisis into an investment opportunity.

“Zesco and government made a prudent decision to import emergency power at great costs which was sold at subsidized prices to cushion households and the industry otherwise the economy would have collapsed without that bold intervention. While the 2015 power deficit became a strategic challenge to economic growth, government turned that threat into an investment opportunity by fast tracking the completion of Ndola Energy, Maamba and Itezhi-Tezhi power plants which added a total of 525mw to the grid. Further government invested into a multi million 750mw Kafue Lower hydro plant which is under construction. In addition Musonda and Lusiwashi small hydros are undergoing rehabilitation. We too have scaling solar and other wind projects under feasibility studies as part of government agenda to diversify the energy mix. On 24th January 2018 i will be launching a pre-bid meeting with KFW for 100 mw (megawatts) small scale solar projects that will be constructed across the country with the support of the Germany government,” stated Mabumba.

“I call upon Zambian entrepreneurs in the energy sector to participate in this tender. This goes to demonstrate President Lungu’s transformative agenda in the energy sector and sector under PF has grown compared to any previous government. Therefore those that want to peddle negative propaganda are doing so out of ignorance or to score political popularism because the facts are that Zesco and ZRA were not the cause of the 2015 power deficit. However the PF remains open to constructive criticism and my door as Minister of Energy is open to those Zambians willing to contribute positively to the growth of the sector.”