Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya yesterday failed to give a clear indication on when consumers will get some relief from load shedding with the importation of electricity from South Africa, revealing instead that Zesco and Eskom have not yet reached an agreement on one aspect of the deal.

And Siliya says Zesco and Maamba Collieries will be able to sort out their issues because it is normal for business entities to owe each other.

Meanwhile, Siliya who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, says she will make an announcement on whether the mining license for the Lower Zambezi National Park can be revoked after consultations with the necessary ministries.

Siliya was speaking when she featured on Hot FM’s Hot Seat program, Thursday.

On October 23, Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa assured consumers that they would have some relief from load shedding within a fortnight, explaining that payment for the power supply was already being processed.

But when asked for an update, Siliya said Eskom and Zesco had not yet reached an agreement.

“Well, these are business transactions because these are not ordinary times. The power challenge is facing us all in the region and the Minister of Energy was very clear at that press briefing that they were negotiating with Eskom because it was demanding that they wanted to supply us power for six months, now this is power that is costing about US$21 million, I believe, per month and we were arguing that we are expecting that we will have rains sufficient enough to provide the Kariba north bank with power in the next two months and so our shortfall is just for two months. So of course Eskom are business people, they want a longer contract so that they can make more money and we are saying ‘no, the people of Zambia are also stressed’, we can’t be paying for six months when we only need the power for 2 months. Every effort is being made. The Minister of Energy just returned on behalf of his Excellency the President (Edgar Lungu) from Mozambique to follow up on these same issues. He was also in South Africa, so they are also talking on the phone. So these discussions or transactions have to be concluded between Zesco and Eskom and Zesco and EDM of Mozambique. I think for South Africa, we have come quite close to concluding because the resources required were ring fenced,” Siliya said.

“So the principal that they were going to supply us with power had already been agreed upon, the issue was for how long and government was insisting that ‘look, we were ready with the US$42 million at least to pay for the power for two months” and when I spoke to the minister of energy yesterday (Wednesday), he told me that at least if not all this amount, at least the remainder of the US$42 million out of the US$10 million which was paid last week, that the balance of that I think was paid yesterday (Wednesday). So this is where we were at and we have made some payment, at least our commitment to two months, that we are happy to have power for two months because as soon as it begins to rain, we know it’s raining in the extreme parts of North Western Province and the source of the Zambezi (river) and we hope that within two months, our river and our lakes will be full enough to be able to generate the electricity that we need.”

And Siliya said Zesco and Maamba Collieries would be able to settle their differences.

“The relationship between Maamba Collieries and Zesco, that’s a business relationship and in business, this one owes that one and so forth but what I know for sure is that the reason we have had this extended load shedding is because one of the broilers at Maamba Collieries proving 150MW at this point is not working and they are actually rehabilitating it but there are specific business transactions between Maamba and Zesco I am sure they will continue to work out because that is why Maamba made a decision to come and invest in Zambia, they saw the business opportunity, they saw the potential and they are working with Zesco and am sure they will continue with those business transactions and should be able to resolve them,” she said.

“Look, government has ring fenced the payment for power from Eskom because this is an emergency import and government has ring fenced that and this is why immediately resources within government were found so that we should be able to pay for this power. If you recall, initially it was that ‘we don’t want to have any further debt on the payment of power to Eskom so let us pass on this cost to the citizens in a cost sharing mechanism’, that was the initial thought by government. After reflection and hearing the call of the people, government decided that okay, ‘maybe let’s look out to whatever resources are available within government, whether it was from ZRA, whether it was from ZCCM-IH and all these institutions, let us look for whatever resources that are available that we can be able to use to pay for this power. So these resources were ring fenced because it’s an emergency import, it’s only for two months and the bill is very clear and this is what we have done.”

Meanwhile, Siliya said government had taken keen interest in the debate about mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

“I don’t have information on people who have interest in that license. Well, let me make the announcement (on whether the license will be revoked or not) when the consultations within government have been concluded so that I do not give you fake information, I can only do that once the Minister of Mines, the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Lands have looked at all the paperwork. I think it’s also important that we also understand what has been the bone of contention up to this point to get to the courts and where is that matter right now. So as of now, government has been listening to these debates in the last one week, particularly on the licence being granted in a national park,” said Siliya.

“If it is indeed correct, I saw even the First President weigh-in yesterday. The issue is that a license is granted, the citizens, at least some members of the public are questioning the license being awarded for mining in a national park and that’s the issue that I am saying government is going to address through the Minister of Mines. Now I have seen a lot of debate on who are the interested parties in that license, I don’t think that that is for me as Government Spokesperson at this point because those are very specific details.”

And Siliya also said that ministers who served illegally after dissolution of Parliament in 2016 were still consulting with the Ministry of Justice on the way forward and were of the view that they worked and deserved to be paid.