Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) leader Edith Nawakwi has charged that Zesco is getting money by false pretences because the power utility has increased the cost of a commodity which it doesn’t have in supply.

Speaking when she featured on Joy FM’s The Platform programme, Thursday, Nawakwi said Zesco and the Energy Regulation Board were the biggest opposition to the ruling PF because the increase in electricity tariffs would go against government’s effort to reduce the price of mealie meal.

“When there is no tomato at Soweto, the price goes up. So now if there is two boxes of tomato on the market, you can increase the price because there are customers there. I don’t understand the mentality of ERB because when Puma has no fuel to sell at their filling station, will they increase the price? Will ERB go to the public and say ‘we want Puma to increase the price of whatever little fuel they have’? This is unfair, it is wrong. This ERB is now the opposition party against PF. What they have done is unacceptable,” Nawakwi said.

“Zesco has no water in the Kariba, Zesco sells electricity from water and right now, we all know that there is no water in the Kariba Dam. In 2011, there were 5,000 employees in Zesco. In 2020, there are 15, 000 employees in Zesco, we still have the same Kariba Dam which is now empty. What Zesco management and their ERB want us to do, they want you and I to pay them for just sitting there and waiting for God to fill the Kariba. Me I find it very difficult. Someone was telling me that when we created ERB, it was not the intention that they become spokespersons for utilities.”

She wondered why ERB was playing the role of Zesco spokesperson instead of arbitrating people’s disputes against the utility.

“[The reason why ERB is acting as spokespersons for entities such as Zesco], it’s the inability to know their job description. They are supposed to be the arbiters between the utilities. We were supposed to go to them to say ‘it is not right for Zesco to say that they want to cover their cost using us when they are not supplying the goods’. This is getting money by false pretences!” Nawakwi charged.

“In my time, when you call for a service from Zesco, they would come in 15 minutes. There was even a saying that if you are attacked at night, you call for Zesco and they will arrive faster than the police. Now you get a call from Zesco saying ‘madam Nawakwi, the minimum waiting time is 48 hours, we will get back to you’, and you want to increase my rate for me to pay for your inefficiency?”

She said Zesco was in a crisis because the power utility was refusing to accept the reality that it has remained with no goods to sell.

“It is still the same network, there has been no expansion on the network, the Kariba is empty, there is no power to sell; so on what basis are you increasing the price of electricity? Workers at Zesco, all of them without exception, are at 24/7 subsidised power. The managers at Zesco have uninterrupted supply. It’s only your house and I which faces load shedding. Even State House is on load shedding because they have a genset there, but the managing director for Zesco has no genset, he is on continuous supply of power. Now that power could be diverted to a milling company. You cannot increase the price of input when the government is trying to persuade the millers to reduce the price of mealie meal. It’s being an opposition to your government,” Nawakwi said.

“Zesco wants us to pay their salaries but they don’t want to face reality and say we have no goods to sell, so they should lay off the workers, they scale down, they should change the cost of management. Inefficiency, ineptitude and lack of focus and lack of thinking about alternatives.”