People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda has charged that the looming electricity tariff increment is partly motivated by government’s desire to continue abusing Zesco Limited as a conduit to raise campaign financing for the ruling Patriotic Front.

Earlier this month, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa said Zesco’s proposed power tariff hike will be effected without waiting for the completion of the Cost of Service study because the utility had been “bleeding”.

The Minister’s remarks followed Zesco’s proposed application to hike retail tariffs by an average 113 per cent, which was submitted to the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) last month, projected to earn the utility an unprecedented K16.1 billion in gross revenues, if approved.

In an interview, Banda, however, said the Ministry of Energy ought to thoroughly restructure Zesco before hiking power tariffs, adding that the move to increase the cost of electricity was partly because the PF was looking for campaign funds.

“The announcement by Energy Minister, Mathew Nkhuwa, where he said that the proposed 75 per cent tariff increment will be effected before the Cost of Service study is completed and implemented is uncalled for. To start with, we don’t find this process transparent because there has to be a basis as to why electricity has to be increased. Now, the Cost of Service study was started and before that is completed, the Minister announced that the 75 per cent increment will be effected on electricity tariff. First of all, what we expected was for the Minister to bring out any measures that had been put in place to ensure that the bleeding from Zesco is stopped,” Banda said.

“As People’s Alliance for Change, we suspect that the reason why things are happening like this is that the government is broke. And looking at the fact that we are going into 2021, they are looking for funds to fund the elections in 2021. They want to use Zesco as a way of fundraising and this will be done through increment in electricity tariffs…which is very unfair to the Zambian people. What we would expect is that once electricity tariffs are increased, we would expect that the restructuring and reorganizing of Zesco is done [than] just wanting increments in tariffs on people.”

He charged that the power tariff hike was also motivated by a desire to fund the so-called ‘tenderpreneurs’ who benefitted from government tenders due their close connections.

“Zesco is abused by many tender entrepreneurs; people who are connected to the system. In essence, what we are trying to do is to fund more ‘tenderpreneurs’ in the system once this electricity tariff increment is effected,” Banda added.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader said the government should strive to quickly establish other alternative sources of energy rather than lumping more costs on consumers.

“Consumers would appreciate if the Cost of Service Study is completed so that as this increment is being implemented (resulting from the Study); that part of the Service Study would have shown the actual reason why electricity is supposed to be increased. The proposed increase in tariffs, again, is too high for the majority Zambians! Already, people are complaining and they cannot afford to buy goods and commodities as it stands, but we can see that the government keeps on increasing the cost of living on them,” said Banda.

“Government has also not demonstrated their plans for other alternative sources [of energy]. All they have been doing is increasing electricity tariffs and trying to stabilize Zesco without putting more efforts in solar power and wind energy. That is so disappointing! You cannot thrive just on lumping costs on consumers; whether it is businesses or individuals. That is not sustainable and the government needs to know that and there is need to come up with a plan that will be more sustainable.”