Energy Minister Honourable Mathew Nkhuwa says the Patriotic Front is a listening government and therefore, if the people of Zambia object to the 75 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, his ministry will stop the initiative. However, he says, citizens must prepare that they will one day wake up and find there is total blackout because Zesco will shut down.

Further, Honourable Nkhuwa says government does not have a budget to pay Eskom of South Africa to give us 300 megawatts of electricity at US$20 million per month. The minister adds that this monthly cost of electricity imports from Eskom is equivalent to the amount government pays Maamba Collieries (which is now down) for the same amount of power.

In his own words: “Right now, that’s the amount that we are spending to buy power from Maamba collieries for example, that’s the price of power, it’s just that the amounts are not being passed on to the consumers. So we don’t have that money, it’s not on the budget. We are going to bring the electricity and then sell it, so the money is going to be coming from the citizens. What is going to happen is that on your bill, there is going to be a line on importation of power, so immediately we stop importing, that line will drop off automatically,” said Nkhuwa.

Now, this sounds like a very logical explanation from a sensible policy maker, until one sits down to analyse and calculate the benefit of all this gibberish to the consumer.

This same minister told us that Maamba is not producing electricity because the plant is down, which was one of the very first reasons given for the load-shedding. Since we have not been told that Maamba has resumed operations, we would like to believe that government or Zesco is not spending any money to buy power from Maamba.

If that is the case, and since the minister says importing 300 megawatts from South Africa will cost us the same amount (US$20 million per month), which we were using to buy from Maamba, why then are you increasing the tariff and passing the extra cost on to the citizens? Why not divert the same money from Maamba to Eskom? Excuse our ignorance Mr educated Minister but we want an explanation on this.

We also remember that last week, Zesco held a press conference where they technically announced to citizens that there was no hope and they should prepare for the worst because the proposed increase in electricity tariffs and the importation of power from South Africa will not reduce the hours of load shedding.

So the bigger question is: why should the poor citizens of this country pay for something that will not improve their dire situation? If a barber man or a welder stopped doing his business at the market because of the 10-hour load shedding, what reason do they have for forking out more money to pay Eskom when it will not bring back electricity to their closed businesses? What sort of reasoning is this from Honourable Nkhuwa?

And at this point, we must clarify that we are referring to this minister as “Honourable” only as a matter of house style and not out of respect for his status. In our view, there is nothing honourable about this man and especially what comes out of his mouth.

Can you imagine, he is saying: “If we don’t increase these tariffs, Zesco may just ground to a halt. We will wake up one day and we will be in darkness.” Does this man live in Zambia? How can he be threatening citizens with darkness? Can’t he see that the citizens are already in darkness? No, he can’t see because his ministerial house is not included on the load shedding schedule; he has power 24 hours per day. He has no way of knowing that Zambians are living in darkness because his family house elsewhere is connected to a generator which is fueled by taxpayers’ money.

And we found it funny how the minister kept saying, “Let’s face it, we need to have cost reflective tariffs.” How do you expect consumers to appreciate the so-called cost reflective tariff when those who generate electricity don’t know the cost of production? Yes, it’s either you don’t know or you are hiding the cost of service study because you know you are lying!

Like we said in our similar editorial on this topic last week, this emergency power import is not meant to benefit the citizens but the criminals in government. Zambians are seeing ministers and Zesco bosses frequenting TV and Radio stations to show remorse for the energy crisis and to beg for help from people, but behind the scenes, their hired middlemen are lining up waiting to harvest tusaka twa ndalama. Ba Pompwe!