Zambians have now turned to charcoal, forests are depleting

Speaking during the Sunday Interview on the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Energy minister Mathews Nkhuwa said Zesco has serious operational challenges, it is suffering and it has no money.

“When we start getting the power from ESKOM, we fix that deal, it will go to six hours. But for now, it is eight hours. We have also managed to buy some energy-saving bulbs, which we are distributing as Zesco, and once that is done, we hope we can save between 250 to 300 megawatts,” said Honourable Nkhuwa.

One thing that has come out clearly so far is that the Ministry of Energy, the Industrial Development Corporation and Zesco itself have all failed to find a lasting solution to the energy crisis in Zambia. All they are talking about is imports and increased tariffs. They have no clue how to fix this national challenge.

Now, the minister was sounding like he wants people to feel pity for Zesco because of the situation that it is in, but we feel that’s asking for too much from people. To say Zesco is suffering and has no money doesn’t make sense and we will explain why.

If your tenant is failing to pay rentals on the excuse that he lost his job and his family is barely surviving, that economic situation must reflect in the activities around that household. An understanding landlord can tolerate a tenant who is genuinely struggling and making frantic efforts to recover from a calamity.

But no one can tolerate a tenant who can’t pay rentals but is heard frying T-bone every day and seen going to the mall with his or her children on weekends to eat prawns and other expensive sea foods, which you the landlord have never even tasted before because you can’t afford. When that happens, just know that you are being fooled. It means your tenant thinks of you as a dull landlord who can easily be deceived and exploited.

This is what Zesco is doing to its consumers. The minister says the power utility is suffering because it has no money. But when we look at the lifestyle of Zesco as a company, we see the luxury that resembles a lying tenant who claims to be broke but is living large. Of all the State owned enterprises, Zesco easily stands out as the most prestigious parastatal because of how it wastes resources.

There is not a single consumer who can tolerate Zesco’s failure to supply electricity. No one can accept to continue subsidizing a company that loses money through political activities. There is too much luxury going on at Zesco; the company has over-employed cadres who are using free electricity, yet they want to increase the tariffs for the poor consumer. This should not be tolerated.

What the minister is saying about the situation at Zesco is okay to say because he has a job that requires him to defend the institution, but it is nonsense. The truth is that they are fooling Zambians through lies. They feel comfortable to give one lie after another because they have the monopoly of power generation business and even if people complain, they have nowhere else to turn.

We still remember that when load shedding started, Zesco lied that it would last for four hours only, but in actual sense, consumers experience six to eight hours of darkness. At one point, the same minister who is calling for sympathy on Zesco lied that the increased load shedding a consequence of a fault at Maamba Power Station, which would only take 15 days to fix. That was two months ago, but there is no hope to date. Then not long ago, Zesco lied that starting this September, load shedding hours would increase to six hours, but when power goes at 06:00hrs in the neighborhoods and it only gets restored eight to 10 hours later. Now in which universe can that be six hours?

Zambians have mastered this pattern now and they know when their government is lying, so they have been left with no option but to find alternative sources of energy. They will not let Zesco kill them. Those who are proposing another increase in tariffs to attract the so-called investors must know that they are creating another serious long-term crisis for the country.

Zambia is losing trees to charcoal at a rate that it cannot sustain. When you stand by any highway that leads into Lusaka City from any direction between 20:00 hours and 05:00 hours, you are guaranteed to see a truck overloaded with charcoal to an extent that you can’t see the truck anymore; all you will see is a moving mountain of charcoal.

Now, we are talking about a country that is already blaming everything bad going on in government on climate change. We are talking about a Zesco that is blaming its failures to generate power on the low water levels in Lake Kariba, which has been caused by low rainfall. Yet they want to keep increasing electricity tariffs so that those who have been persevering can be forced to join those who are depleting forests in search of charcoal.

The Zesco crisis is a brain issue by those who are in power, please stop attempting to solve it by flaunting ideas that will only provoke nature.

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Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly

Having just paid a holiday visit to Zambia some 50 years after having had the pleasure of working and living there I was amazed at the progress the country has made and the vast expansion of Lusaka. I was horrified however to see the extent of electricity load shedding across the city. How has the Government allowed this situation to happen? Where was the forward planning? Why in a country blessed with so much sunshine and windpower is there no electricity generation using these renewable energy sources? Where are the solar panels on houses? Where are the solar panel industrial… Read more »

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