Zesco managing director Victor Mundende and his entire board must resign if any positive, meaningful change will be seen at the power utility, says energy consultant Eng Geoffrey Chilembo.

And Eng Chilembo has charged that the recommendations by President Edgar Lungu’s task force instituted on energy are not being implemented because of resistance to professional management of the country’s power sector that would be corruption-free.

In an interview, Eng Chilembo, a Zambian-based director for an Eskom consulting subsidiary, argued that if Zesco’s current board and management were not changed, the company’s operational challenges and the country’s power challenges would likely continue.

“It’s not just the MD that needs to resign, but the board! The governance structure, top management, they just have to leave, otherwise, as long as they are there, it shall be business as usual,” Eng Chilembo said.

And Eng Chilembo, a power sector specialist with over 24 years’ experience who was an advisor to PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) on the restructuring of Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) Plc, wondered why the recommendations by the task force instituted by President Lungu had been shelved.

In 2017, Cabinet commissioned a technical study, which made recommendations to improve the operational performance of the utility, which was chaired by then-Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska, who stated that the overall objective was to turn Zesco into a viable company that efficiently generates, transmits and distributes electricity to both domestic and industrial clients as well as the export market.

Arising from the study report, Cabinet, at its meeting held on July 16, 2018, approved the recommendations and directed that an implementation team be constituted, the Zesco Reforms Implementation Team, to carry out the accepted recommendations, but nothing tangible had been yielded since then.

“If you remember, (former) US Ambassador (to Zambia) (Daniel) Foote, when he was having that press conference, first of all, he talked about the homosexual issue and then he went now to the corruption aspect. Within the corruption aspect, if you check the speech, you will see that he alluded to, on the energy sector, he said there was something that the Zambian government was doing with the Americans, but, then, because of domestic politics, that thing has been dormant for the past one year! So, what is very key there is what he was talking about; very factual. So, what he meant there was Dr Roland Msiska, the former Secretary to the Cabinet, if you remember, he said the team that the President constituted to look at the Zesco issues and the entire energy sector. So, that team of experts from both public and private sector did a thorough job, so they presented the recommendations, the findings, the way forward, they presented it before the President and Cabinet approved. So, that’s what Foote was referring to, after that, it’s quiet, that thing has been shelved!” Eng Chilembo said.

“So, that shelving is where the problem is; why have they not proceeded with the implementation of those recommendations? Why are they scared? What are they scared of? It’s because they know that it’s a professional way forward, there will be no corruption, no whatever, but you know what is happening in Zambia, whenever you want to do something straight, others have got vested interest, they want to benefit from it here and there, so that’s the challenge we have. So, that’s the key, within that, if you investigate that one, it was a task force to look into the energy sector reforms. So, within that, it covered everything: the confusion, where it started from and the way forward. All these issues with CEC (Copperbelt Energy Corporation) were all handled, according to the investigation if only they had implemented that, but that’s the challenge, why haven’t they done that?”

Meanwhile, Eng Chilembo stressed the need to learn from South Africa’s power sector and called for the implementation of the recommendations by the task force.

“The lessons learnt? Firstly, if implementing expert recommendations to resuscitate an inefficient entity will not advantage a corrupt government, such will be shelved, closed case! Secondly, in a democratic dispensation, it takes a determined new government to undo the evils committed by the previous corrupt regime. Thirdly, the opposition parties must never relent in their quest to help bring and restore sanity to the energy sector by always providing checks and balances to the government in power as they decode and expose falsehoods emanating from the party in power for the good of the general citizenry. Fourthly, resign to pave way. It is a credible path. Fifthly, it matters how the government in power bows out when citizens decide to retire it and bring in a new government to move the nation forward. Will it bow out in shame like the case was with Jacob Zuma (former South African president) or in dignity? Better is the end of the matter than its beginning,” said Eng Chilembo.