Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) president Charles Milupi says the Energy Regulation Board’s (ERB) decision to hike electricity tariffs is meant to fund the PF campaigns ahead of the 2021 general election.
Last week, the ERB hiked electricity tariffs by 200 per cent to help resuscitate Zesco’s dwindling financial position, while also increasing fuel pump prices.
In an interview, Milupi, however, said hiking electricity tariffs was not the solution as the major challenge that the power utility had was the PF’s constant interference in Zesco’s corporate activities.
“The major thing that could have been done is to professionalize Zesco. To have the workforce trimmed to ensure that only those that are required to handle operations are there; to ensure that government no longer interferes with Zesco. What we lack is the attitude of the shareholder, which is government, who keep appointing cadres in the boards of directors whose main role is to please their appointing authorities. And the people suffering in the process are the Zambian consumers because there is no electricity; the little that is there, they now have to pay through their nose, through this 200 per cent increase,” Milupi said.
“We have seen on occasions during by elections vehicles without number plates and some of these have come from Zesco, we know that. We cannot run an organization and hope that it will be making profits every time. So, these parastatals are used for campaigns! Some are blatantly taking number plates off and giving to these ruling party cadres who now use them for political campaigns, which is totally against the Constitution.”
He said the PF government was unable to run parastatals, adding that the electricity hike was not justifiable.
“It is not justifiable. This (increment) is meant to pay salaries to cadres, to pay salaries to workers, to pay whatever politicians get out of Zesco. It is not to provide the service. It is not justified. What should have been done is to streamline the operations of Zesco, to re-focus Zesco and then look at tariffs. Not the other way round because these increased tariffs will just feed the inefficiencies that is already there within the system,” he added.
“I think this particular government have shown total inability to run parastatals to understand how companies run and what they can expect out of parastatals. Most governments in Africa have an obscure vision of what they expect from parastatals; they use them for political expedience to create jobs for themselves, to create business for themselves. That is how Zambia Airways perished. In respect to Zesco, you know that it is grossly underemployed. Over 60 per cent of the income from Zesco goes into conditions of service.”
Milupi observed that the tariff increment was detrimental to the economy as most companies would face difficulties to raise revenue through their production.
“First of all, you have increased (tariffs), but there is no power. The little that you are able to use has now been increased to 200 per cent extra. Those who continued to struggle to operate without plants by using diesel generators or petrol generators have also been affected by the fuel increment. So, you are hitting the productive sector from left right and centre and then you hope that your companies will generate profit, and that they will pay taxes, which will now go to the national Treasury and support your budget? It won’t happen. And that is why this country is defaulting, even on AfDB (African Development Bank) US $1.4 million, when you have a country like Zambia struggling to pay US $1.4 million, you will know that we are on our knees! When you have a country struggling to pay Eskom on the importation of electricity, you know we are own our knees. This is what we have been talking about that we need a government that will run things smoothly. We would have created capacities to deal with emergencies,” said Milupi.
“We need a government that will re-look at all these things, restructure everything. Make sure that Zesco and other parastatals are delivering service to the consumers and also delivering value to the shareholders through government.”