ZESCO Limited cannot allow load shedding to continue into 2021 because it will destroy businesses, affecting livelihoods and exacerbating poverty levels, says the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR).

In September, during the opening of Parliament, President Edgar Lungu assured the nation that load shedding will be “a thing of the past” once he commissioned the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower station, which was originally scheduled for this month.

All year, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa equally made various pronouncements that load shedding was expected to significantly reduce this month on the back of newly-injected power into the national grid from the available new power sources.

However, ahead of Christmas, Zesco public relations manager Hazel Zulu said that load shedding was expected to reduce by four hours due to decreased demand for electricity, mainly by industries during the festive period, up to this weekend.

Commenting on the shifting positions on the ongoing load shedding problem, CSPR programmes coordinator Chimunka Nachibinga said the inconsistency in the statements as to when load shedding would finally end was negatively impacting small-scale industries as the power deficit made their business planning harder.

“The inconsistency in the statements that are being issued by Zesco as far as load shedding is concerned and has greater impact on the small-scale industries because these are businesses usually that are focused on how much money they need to revert in their sources of production. So, basically, If Zesco tells us that, ‘load shedding will come to an end in December’ and then this continues, it disturbs capital projection for the small-scale industries. Some of these have actually relied on clean energy for production, meaning that they are unable to get other sources of energy to produce. So, going further, you will find that their production will be affected in one way or the other,” Nachibinga said.

“Those that cannot manage to acquire unclean energy, for example, diesel some of them will die a natural death because if they can’t produce, then it means that they cannot even maintain the workforce that they have for them to even sustain their businesses. So, it has a greater impact and for those that would want to survive tooth and nail, it means that they have to increase their prices for goods and services they are producing using unclean energy. This will definitely have a devastating impact when it comes to the consumers themselves. The consumers will have to be slapped with that charge where these small-scale industries will want to benefit in one way or the other to sustain their business.”

And Nachibinga outlined that a number of small-scale businesses would be hard-hit if load shedding persisted into the New Year.

“If load shedding continues up to next year of which we are seeing because next year is just this week, some of the businesses will end up dying a natural death because the cost of doing business is becoming very high and also owing to the fact that fuel has become expensive. So, if there is no continued supply of cheap energy to these small industries, most of them can’t afford to produce based on diesel. Just an example: those businesses, who are producing window frames and doing a lot of welding, can’t manage to run the genset for the whole day for them to be able to produce. So, basically, that is almost stragerring their business,” said Nachibinga.

“I think our call is that government has to come in quickly to ensure that all the projects that they did mention, Kafue Lower Gorge, should be finalised and ensure the load shedding comes to an end for continued business. So, for us, as an organisation, we urge government to come up with a robust strategy and statement when load shedding will come to an end so that it can help businesses to focus properly in terms of capital engagement in their sources of energy for production. So, a robust road map is required so that these businesses that are using other sources of energy can be able to focus and also put amicable prices for their products.”