The Zambia Association of Manufactures is encouraging Zesco to consider increasing electricity tariffs “temporarily”, for the purpose of enabling the utility to import emergency power.

“Our considered view on that is because energy is such a critical input for manufacturers, if Zesco is intending to import power in order to mitigate the current power deficit, then its necessary that they consult on the proposed tariff hike so that there is a win-win outcome for everyone,” said ZAM vice-president Chipego Zulu.

We do not agree with this. Increasing electricity tariffs again in order to allow Zesco to import emergency power will have the same impact on the economy as not having power, as it is now. Increasing tariffs will in turn increase the cost of doing business, these people who are making these proposals are experienced businessmen who should know this very well.

Just the other day, traders who sell nsima on the markets were complaining that their business have been heavily affected by load-shedding and the increased cost of mealie meal. If we increase electricity tariffs, there is no way the cost of mealie meal will come down. Is that too complicated to understand?

In our view, this is State sponsored economic sabotage. We say this because the crisis we are in is man-made. It is man-made because there are people who are paid to look into the future and see that we will have this situation in two or three years time. This problem did not start yesterday; it started in 2015 when the water levels on Lake Kariba started communicating to us. Did they ever plan? From the look of things, they didn’t.

What does that say about those people who are paid to manage our power utility? Sheer incompetence! Now, we are saying, let us not reward incompetence by increasing the electricity tariffs. People must be made to account.

The Energy Regulation Board and Zesco have been talking about the Cost of Service Study for years now. Where is that report? Zesco has not told the people how much money they spend on generating electricity. There is no business that does not know the cost of its own production, why is this information being kept from the public?

We insist that this is economic sabotage, sponsored by sharks who are waiting to amass from the importation of emergency electricity. Once a go ahead is given for Zesco to increase tariffs and start the emergency importation, the sharks will jump on the opportunity to make money from the poor citizens who have already been subsidizing Zesco.

This idea of increasing tariffs again should be condemned by all concerned Zesco consumers. Those who are proposing tariff increments again, like the man at ZAM, must go and donate to Zesco if they have a lot of money to spend.

It is not long when Zesco increased tariffs by 150 per cent. There justification for that was that the utility needed to charge cost reflective tariffs. They said the money would be used to reinvest in power generate so that load-shedding can end. Has load-shedding ended? No! They lied to consumers. People deserve to know; where is that money that they have been paying? They can’t tell us that all of it has evaporated.

Zesco should be held accountable. If for whatever reason utility cannot produce the Cost of Service Study, then they must publish their financial statements for the past three years. Consumers need to be given an opportunity to see how the money was spent. In the absence of that, there cannot be any justification for another increased tariff.

The suggestions that we want to hear from ZAM is that government must immediately remove all taxes on Solar equipment so that solar technology can be imported directly by households. That is one sure way that pressure will be lifted off Zesco. But is that a suggestion that excites our government? No! They want Zesco to continue overtaxing citizens because it is their milking cow for election campaign funds.

And we cannot help but laugh when we hear the crafting of this tariff increase proposal, where they have even added the word, “temporary”. Has God told them that this drought is temporary? What determinant factor are you going to use to know that now the temporary tariff hike can be reversed?

Ba Zesco! Let’s have dignity even as we steal from the people. The reality at Zesco is that the company has over borrowed and you are now unable to raise new funding to invest in new infrastructure. The cause of this load-shedding is not really the water levels on Lake Kariba, you just don’t have any new generating capacity. You have a bloated debt and a bloated workforce feeding from a stagnant asset! Those are the real challenges that Zesco must admit to the people.

We must add that Zesco is actually lucky that Zambians are more bothered by the bad manners of South Africans than the incompetence going on at the power utility. Otherwise, this 10 hours load-shedding after the 150 per cent tariff increase is cause for countrywide demos.