All People’s Congress (APC) party president Nason Msoni says it is criminal and abusive for Zesco Limited to try and adjust retail power tariffs by an average 113 per cent for consumers who will fail to afford the high cost of electricity.

In an interview, Msoni insisted that the power utility’s proposed tariff hike was not a solution to Zambia’s persistent load shedding challenge, as Zambians would be subjected to pay for Zesco’s operational inefficiency.

Zesco’s proposed 113 per cent retail tariff hike application has since been submitted to the Energy Regulation Board (ERB), which they have projected will earn the utility an unprecedented K16.1 billion in gross revenues, if approved.

“I think we should all agree that this is abuse of the public by a public utility! The public cannot bankroll inefficiency, theft and plunder of public resources that is taking place in Zesco. I think the situation has become desperate and this calls for more answers to where the money is going because citizens are paying this company in advance. Nothing is justifying the criminal upward adjustment! I think it is criminal behaviour aided and legitimized by ERB. This is criminality. It is theft and robbery of the Zambian public!” Msoni said.

“Basically, the solution does not run in abusing the public, financially. The answer does not lie in constant upward adjustments (in tariffs). What exactly are they trying to fix? What are they using the money we are paying them in advance? I think the challenge at hand is far bigger than we ever thought. There is a danger that this company may be putting itself out of business because time will come when nobody will be able to afford electricity.”

He called on Zambians to demand for greater accountability from Zesco, further accusing the ERB of being used to launder money by the PF government.

“All of us, as citizens, are justified to demand accountability from the power utility. We demand that we see the audited accounts so that citizens know how this public company is using the money that it is raising. We have never in the life of that company and in the history of our people ever gotten to this point where that company, virtually, is surviving by tariff upward adjustments. So, the question is: where is the money going that we have already paid in advance before we are given the product on the service?” he questioned.

“I think nothing makes sense at this juncture; I think we demand for more explanation and information. ERB literally has become a facial mask that government is using to launder; abuse the public; legitimising inefficiency; bankruptcy and criminal upward adjustment. We think that this ERB, also, has become complacent in squeezing our people in a tight edge. The cost of energy has gone beyond the reach of the citizens.”

Msoni added that it was also time for Zesco to shed its unwanted labour force.

“Those politicians who’re alleged or believed to be on Zesco payroll must now be removed from that payroll. If it is true that we have stranded politicians living out of Zesco, party functionalists siphoning money out of a public utility, I think the time has now come for the people to be no longer on the payroll. Perhaps in terms of accountability, we may demand that we look at the people who are receiving public money through that company,” said Msoni.

“I think the time has come when this government must deal with this issues, holistically, and see where the problem is. You cannot run a company, a monopoly on the basis of taking advantage of citizens; we are being taken advantage of! So, perhaps the time has come that we need to break up this State monopoly and allow for another players because, clearly, it’s not working for the majority of our people. The time has come when a decision has to be taken in the interest of the people.”