Consumer interests should be at the centre of all decision-making, CUTS tells Zesco

By Staff Reporter

The Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) is concerned with the proposed increment in electricity tariffs by ZESCO.

CUTS while it agrees that Zambia should indeed begin to gradually move towards cost reflective tariffs – particularly in light of Zambia’s precarious fiscal position, consumer interests should remain at the centre of all decision-making.

CUTS Communications Officer Njavwa Simukoko said in a statement that her organisation was of the view that only following meaningful efforts towards internal reform of ZESCO should an increase in electricity tariffs for consumers be considered.

She said while the Cost of Service Study has indeed been delayed, CUTS is opposed to a revision of prices before this is released as it is imperative to make sure that consumers are not being unfairly penalized for inefficiencies within ZESCO.

Simukoko said as such, before shifting the burden to consumers, ZESCO should look to resizing the structure of the institution to achieve efficiency.

“In 2017 we applauded the Government for lifting the life-line electricity tariff for consumers from 100 kWh to 300 kWh. We noted however that quantity-based subsidies were not the most efficient way of targeting the poor, as low-income consumers are not necessarily those who use the least electricity”, she added.

She said this proposed tariff hike will mean that Zambians will see an increase in the cost of production of all goods and services.

Simukoko said with this increased cost of production, CUTS expect a rise in the prices of commodities despite the fact that disposable incomes for most households had remained largely unchanged.

She noted that proposed tariffs for schools, hospitals, and orphanages, have more than doubled thus this will have an impact on the provision of basic social services such as education and health.

She said it is therefore imperative that ZESCO finds additional alternative ways of reforming the energy sector without passing the brunt of the burden on to the consumers.

And Governance, Elections, Advocacy and Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi  said it was unfair for zesco to cogitate to increase electricity tariffs and continue passing on the cost of its inefficiencies to already tax-burdened citizens.

Chipenzi stated that Zesco has not denied allegations to the effect that it has over employed and that some ruling party officials are on its payroll, when these officials are not employees of this parastatal company.

“This means that zesco is now a conduit of abuse its own revenue generated from charging poor residents,”chipenzi said.

He added that zesco has not explained to the nation where its revenues from export of electricity to neighbouring countries goes to or applied on.

“Zesco should reflect on its luxury living before it starts punishing struggling citizens, who are barely surviving, to subsidise its operations and luxury living of its executives,” he said.

Chipenzi indicated that Zambian citizens must unite and ensure that these proposed tariffs are rejected forthwith.

“Energy Regulation Board (ERB) should also not entertain such requests from Zesco, as this request is not corresponding to the current economic situation in the country,” he submitted.