UPND deputy secretary general for administration Getrude Imenda has charged that the proposed electricity tariff increment by Zesco is not meant to carter for the power utility’s operational cost but to repay government’s ballooning external debt.

In an interview with News Diggers! Imenda accused the Patriotic Front government of using Zesco to organise funds for the repayment of its loans.

She castigated government for the careless expenditure, complaining that the economy was already biting yet government still wanted to tax its citizens more.

“The economy is already biting, so for them to increase the tariffs to almost 100 per cent, that’s doubling. Now if you double the tariff adjustment, energy cuts across. If you increase the price of fuel, it’s going to trigger what we call ripples in the economy. It’s the same for ZESCO tariffs because every part of industry requires electricity. The baker requires electricity, the manufacturer requires electricity. Everything requires electricity. So once you double or once you increase the price for electricity, then it sends what is called in economics ripples in the economy or what we call multiplier effects, because it cuts across all the sectors of the economy. So we will see prices going up. Already we have to contend the fact that there is no money in this economy,” Imenda said.

Imenda insisted that Zambians had no more money to pay government its excessive taxes.

“People are suffering, there is no money. Nobody is paying anybody because the government has taken all the money, they’ve sent it abroad through the contracts that they have given to the foreigners and also through the money that they have borrowed from the international community. So I don’t want to believe that the increase in ZESCO tariffs is because they want to sort out some operational costs and so on, it’s a lie. The truth is that the government wants money. Mind you, part of government’s debt repayment is due in June. But they have no money, like I have told you, there is no money in the economy. So what are the doing? They are increasing the taxes, the tariffs, the levies. Everywhere, wherever you step, it’s a tax. You try to drive a car, there is a speed camera before you, you want to dig a bore hole, there is a tax. So there are all those taxes because government wants to pay its debt in June,” she said.

“Already our Kwacha has gone to the dogs, now if you are increasing the ZESCO tariffs, what are you saying? The cost of everything is going to go up in tandem with electricity. There will be a lead period of maybe about two months or so. But we will start seeing the effects. Already we are suffering, people have got no money. Right now as I am talking to you, I am in Spar (supermarket). The numbers of customers we used to see in spar are not there, why? Because people have got no money to buy anything. Now if you are going to increase the price of electricity, the bakery here where I am standing, they also have to increase the price of bread. So the price of everything is going to go up. So ZESCO is not telling us the truth. This increment is not going to improve on operations. They are taxing us so that the government can have money to pay the international debt because it’s due, the USD$400 million is due in June. So they are trying to find where to get money.”

Imenda asked government to sale the recently purchased Presidential jet if it wanted to meet Zesco’s operational costs.

“This Zesco, they have been funding government on frivolous issues, PF party issues. This PF government gets the money from ZESCO and they have not paid back. You tell ZESCO, they should first get the money that they have given to the government so that they can put it into that operation they are talking to us about, instead of taxing us the consumers. How far shall we go? What’s wring with this government? What’s wrong with this country honestly? We have become a laughing stock in the region,” said Imenda.

“So let ZESCO first check debtors and one of the debtors is the government. Let the government pay them that money, they should not increase the ZESCO tariffs, it’s too much for us, we don’t have money, we don’t have jobs. People have got no jobs, there are no even businesses, the few that are in businesses you want to kill them with these prohibitive tariffs. It’s not okay. We have all these problems then someone goes to buy a luxurious Airplane, let them sale that Airplane and put the money into ZESCO.”