As long as Zesco continues to be abused as a conduit for corruption by the ruling Patriotic Front party, Zambia’s recurring power challenges will persist, says People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda.

In an interview, Banda also called for change in the management and board at the power utility.

Zambia’s current power deficit stood at 700 Mega Watts (MW) following a serious drought that induced lower water levels at the Kariba Dam.

Heightened load-shedding has in the second-half of 2019 persisted, prompting the Ministry of Energy to organize emergency power imports from South Africa and Mozambique at a cost of nearly US $21 million, a situation which will see electricity tariffs rise by as high as 75 per cent.

“It is unfortunate that the country is importing power when institutions like Zesco are being abused by the same ruling party. One of the reasons why Zesco is not able to operate efficiently is because the ruling party has constantly abused the organisation,” Banda charged.

“They employ people, who are not qualified, cadres who don’t even report for work! They are on the Zesco pay roll, they’re also given dubious contracts, which are overpriced meaning the cost of running Zesco is quite high. So, we are not happy by the abuse of the power utility, which has failed to effectively and efficiently deliver and distribute power to the consumers.”

He said as long as Zesco was used as a conduit of corruption by the PF, Zambia’s power challenges will not stop.

“The consumers will have to end up paying more! Our advice is that, in as much as it is expensive to run a business, the problem with Zesco must be sorted out urgently. Those employees that are not needed must be fired with immediate effect,” he urged.

“Those dubious contracts that have been given to cadres must be stopped and a new board must be appointed so that Zesco can be run independently and it goes towards stability, but as long as Zesco is going to be used as a conduit of corruption, we will never see this power problem being sorted out.”

Banda urged the government to take the country’s recurring power challenges seriously as it was killing the economy.

“But government needs to understand that this power issue is getting out of hand. It’s a crisis! A lot of small business are failing to run because they cannot be able to sustain closing a business for eight hours. We must remember that most businesses are in a residential area where power goes like almost the whole day. Power comes two hours a day and they have lost customers, who have opted for places where they have gensets. The government is killing the economy!They have to come up with a solution. They shouldn’t take it lightly,” urged Banda.

“Also, the issue of exporting of power to Malawi, yes, it doesn’t make sense for us exporting power when we have a power deficit, but it could be probably that their contracts that have been signed before. Also, even as we are trying to import power from South Africa, they also have a deficit. So, these are just probably some contracts that have been signed way before.”