THE “Stay Home and Stay Safe” recommendation has increased consumption of electricity because of the notable increase in the use of gadgets in households, says Vice-President Inonge Wina.

And Vice-President Wina says some politicians have launched a campaign to discredit government through telling lies and persuading youths to protest in the bush.

Speaking when she responded to questions during the Vice President’s question time in parliament Friday, Vice-President Wina said electricity consumption had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic when asked if government was considering lowering Zesco electricity tariffs.

“Government has received some presentations on the issue of Zesco tariffs. But the country should be aware that the tariff increment came at a time when the Load Management programme was between 12-14 hours, and currently is standing between eight to 10 hours [in a day]. This impacted the rate of consumption of electricity units for households. And there has been a fundamental shift following continued efforts to reduce the load shedding hours. Additionally, with the COVID-19, “Stay Home and Stay Safe” has increased consumption of electricity because of the notable increase in the use of gadgets by households,” Vice-President Wina said.

She said Zesco’s historical data indicated an increased demand for electricity during the cold season.

“The residential consumer purchasing patterns have shown that some customers front loaded their electricity meters towards the end of 2019 when it was announced that tariffs would be increased from January. And with the bulky units of this, customers gradually depleting units through the year, the customers who had front loaded units are not beginning to feel the real effects of purchasing electricity from Zesco. This has led to the media and social media sentiments that the tariff awarded was too high. Furthermore, Zesco Limited’s historical data indicated increased demand for electricity during the cold months of June and July that many households tend to use electricity more for heating compared to other months of the year,” she said.

Asked by Livingstone UPND member of parliament Matthew Jere to conform if HoneyBee was awarded a contract to supply medical drugs before the company was incorporated in Zambia, a reason why some youths were protesting, Vice-President Wina said some political parties were using youths to discredit the PF government.

“The member should know that some of our young people are misled and misinformed by politicians. This is not a new thing. It is part of a program of some political parties to discredit this government. And this has been sustained from 2016 to today, and it will continue for as far as I see, to paint this government as a corrupt government. And this is not the only campaign. The young people are being persuaded to go in the bush. I don’t know why some people are objecting to what I am saying because that is the truth of the matter. The young people are being told stories that cannot be verified including some issues of corrupt activities,” Vice-President Wina said.

She, however, said government would not condone corruption.

“When these cases have been proved, then we cannot expect this government not to condemn such practices. But just to take action on the basis of perception and misinformation, I think it is to mislead our people especially the youth. Mr Speaker, this government will not condone corruption and this is a fact,” Vice-President Wina said.

And when asked why government had failed to pay civil servants for them to pay back the loans which some of them had gotten from the banks, Vice-President Wina said government was slowly paying the banks.

“Government has not failed to pay the banks, to pay the obligations of the civil servants. It was a huge bill and currently, the bill has been reduced as the Ministry of Finance has continuously paid banks and remits the money to the bank on behalf of the civil servants. And this is an ongoing process. I believe that before the end of the year, we will see a drastically reduced bill with the banks,” she said.

Chimwemwe PF member of parliament Elias Mwila also asked what sanctions government would effect on the Lusaka City Council for selectively allowing some foreign-owned bars and night clubs to operate at will.

In her response, Vice-President Wina said government was aware that bars had been a source of employment for youths but urged those illegally operating them to stop.

“Mr Speaker, I do appreciate the frustrations of the Bar Owners Association of Zambia because bars are another source of job creation particularly for our youths. However, I wish to state that if there are any restaurants operating as bars under the guise of being restaurants, they are doing so illegally and must be stopped,” Vice-President Wina warned.

She appealed to bar owners to be patient with the government saying the decision for bars to remain closed was in the interest of the public.

“My advice, Mr Speaker, is that bar owners at the moment should abide by the guidance given by His Excellency the President which is that bars should remain closed, especially during this cold season when the weather is not so favourable for bars to open. I am very certain that His Excellency the President at an appropriate time will look into this matter. I call upon the bar owners to be patient with the government as this is in the interest of their health and that of the general public at large,” said Vice-President Wina.