Everything that Zambia is doing today is exactly what countries that have been badly hit by the virus did; they ignored timely advice, they delayed to take decisive action. Citizens are asking the government to consider a lockdown for at least 14 days. Health experts, including the Minister of Health himself are saying this is the most effective way of arresting the spread of COVID-19, but this advice is falling on deaf ears. The President doesn’t want to learn from other countries’ mistakes. This is bad leadership.
We can bet anyone that eventually, the government will be left with no option but to declare a shut down. Unfortunately, that will be too late. At that stage, so many citizens will have already been infected and pass on the virus to people around their communities. Locking down infected people will not help in containing the spread of the virus, it will defeat the whole purpose of a lockdown.
That is why we are encouraging citizens of this country, especially the city dwellers, to act now and not wait for the government leadership to tell them what to do. These people in government are dare-devils, they like playing with calamities. In fact, this country is rather on auto pilot, there is no reliable leadership that people can look up to. Those who care about their lives and the lives of others must take it upon themselves to quit non-essential activities or work from home and stay in doors.
Our newspaper, for example, made a decision to close down its office premises mid this month. By last week, all our reporters were sent home, they were advised to work from their houses to minimise the risk of exposure in the field. We believe that when there are less people in circulation, the spread of of the virus will be significantly reduced among those who will be left out to provide essential services like healthcare, security and supply of critical goods.
Our concern, however, is that the power utility company is not being very helpful to this situation. It’s proving very hard to stay and work from home because of load-shedding. We have observed that since the onset of the rainy season, the load-shedding schedule has hardly changed. For many residents, especially in Lusaka, the power outages have remained the same if not worse. Zesco has come up with all sorts of excuses for their failure to provide consistent power supply to industries and domestic consumers. Is Zesco telling people that the fish in Lake Kariba has drunk all the water collected from the recent rainfall? We don’t understand.
Zesco has a huge role to play in this fight against the Coronavirus. We were pleased to hear the Minister of Water Development and Sanitation instruct water companies to suspend the disconnection exercise to consumers who are owing. This is a progressive directive. The idea is that people need to have essential services and commodities such as water at their constant disposal. It would not make sense to tell people to continuously wash their hands when water supply companies are disconnecting them. Such critical institutions need to make sacrifices and the government will be expected to show gratitude by extending reciprocal benefits.
This directive from the Ministry of Water needs to be extended to the Ministry of Energy and the power utility. A household without power is nothing better than a prison. When government is sending people home and telling them to stay indoor, the next thing they should think about is what are they going to be doing locked up in the house? Electricity is everything in a household. People need to work from home on their computers, they need electricity, people need to cook, they need electricity; people need entertainment, television needs electricity; people need to charge their cell phones and talk to their workmates and beloved ones, they need electricity.
We are not asking Zesco to reduce electricity tariffs during this period. We know that such a topic would be a non-starter. All we are asking Zesco to do is to make sure that when people buy electricity, it is provided. If you close down all bars, night clubs, restaurants and all social joints; and ask people to stop moving about and work from home, you must then provide them the necessary services.
Our reasoning is that Zesco should not find this impossible to do because during this Coronavirus crisis, many companies are closing down and the power consumption is significantly reducing from the manufacturing industries. That excess power should make up for the deficit at domestic level.
Please Zesco, give people an incentive for staying and working from home by cutting load-shedding hours. Aikona ukushimya twapapata!