Electricity Load-Shedding and Incompetencies
By Jonathan Mulako
Zambia has since 2007 been experiencing erratic electricity supply, negatively affecting productivity and the economy at large. This problem has been compounded by low water levels at the Kariba dam, which is the main source of power generation.
The Head of State Mr. Edgar Lungu, during the opening of Parliament wholly attributed the problem that has affected, especially the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to global climate change. He called for concerted efforts to seek interventions that mitigate the impact of climate change.
However, Zesco Managing Director Victor Mundende recently gave chronological weakening capacity for the country to deal with the electricity demand to correspond with the economic activities in the last 15 years.
He explained that in 1996, experts had advised to invest in the power generation to increase capacities as population and demand were growing. He disclosed that the experts had warned that the country would start experiencing electricity problems by 2007 if government did not invest in this sector.
Isn’t it ironic that instead of crying over climate change, the government should be investing money in the power generation capabilities to cushion the negative impact that has already devastated small scale businesses?
In an effort to deflect public anger and discontent, President Lungu and his administration accelerated the politicking peddle by assuring Zambians of an ESKOM deal from South Africa to reduce long hours of load-shedding in the country. Government paid ESKOM 41 million (US) dollars but outages have remained outrageously high to the consumers.
It would seem no power was received even after numerous assurances to the nation that 3000mw would be in the country a week after payment. This proved to be a hoax, as many Zambians came to know – the payment only serviced the previous credit!
This was another broad daylight blatant lie like the five-year deal of Saudi Arabia cheap oil which President Lungu had claimed to have clinched. The President, in his usual fashion, led an expensive delegation to the Middle East in 2018. To justify the trip, the President had to break the “good” news to Zambians. To date, Zambians have instead, seen fuel hikes. In any case, the price of fuel is determined on the world market which President Lungu can never influence. So, who were Lungu and his colleagues fooling?
It is the long overdue view of many citizens that President Lungu should quit politics of deceit and squarely face the business of governance.NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili in a fierce tone, in his Christmas and New Year message, took a swipe at his former boss and the entire PF leadership over fuel and electricity increases: “This government is cursed. You cannot treat citizens like this. I urge you President Lungu to put your house in order. “
President Lungu’s solar hammer mill initiative to reduce the price of mealie meal is just an expensive dead project. Truly speaking, the majority of Zambians are struggling to believe how the price of mealie meal has sky-rocked. The PF found a bag of 25kg of breakfast mealie meal at K30 and it is now fetching around K170 per bag. This is far beyond the reach of many Zambian families leaving on less than 2 dollars per day.
An attempt to fix prices by offloading maize to selected milling companies to reduce the price of the commodity will only cause distortion in the market. Many are of the view that President Lungu has successfully ruined a potentially vibrant economy, with little hope for a better Zambia under his leadership. They feel this PF administration has turned the lives of the majority of citizens upside down.
Mr. Edgar Lungu has made many pronouncements about austerity programs to cut down on costs and save money. He is however, seen and known to be living a lavish lifestyle. His big delegations on foreign travels have raised eyebrows, sometimes carrying over 40 people, consisting of friends, family members, officials and ordinary civil servants such as bedroom attendants at government expense. It is now public knowledge that no amount of criticism on this issue will move him.
“Being in government is about service, it is about duty and it’s about sacrifice. These are the qualities that leadership demands of anyone worthy to be called a President of a nation. We don’t see that in Edgar,” says Felix Mulenga, a local political analyst.
Duty and sacrifice are not on the list of priorities for the current regime. Lest Zambians forget, the Zambian leader went ahead to please himself with a gulfstream G750 Presidential jet to the tune of 135 million United States dollars amid a terrible and unbearable economic situation in the country. Ordinary Zambians who will judge Edgar’s Presidency have no food, jobs, water and flushing toilets to mention but a few challenges.
This lavish expenditure still comes at a time when Mr. Edgar Lungu has completely paid a deaf ear to the cries of retirees and retrenchees who have not been paid for many years. Many of the retirees have since died, some from depression, without receiving their money. This is exactly the epitome of power without an atom of care and responsibility.
“Cut presidential trips and allowances for ministerial trips. Travel when it is essential. In this way, you will raise money for our retirees and retrenchees that rendered enormous service to the nation during their time. If all you need is simple advice, that is what you can do to alleviate the suffering of those people,” Opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema recently advised.
In an apparent reference to the luxury presidential jet, the opposition leader said: “we don’t need that jet as a country. When we take over government, we will immediately sell that jet. In fact, we have already found a buyer.”
To be quite sincere, the PF administration has more to deal with. The country’s assets are being wiped out by one single problem coming from what many describe as carelessness- the towering debt pile, now at a staggering US $19 billion. It is the highest figure of borrowed money since independence, much of it splashed on projects which have been conduits of grand corruption under this PF administration. Government and ruling party officials have dominated in winning tenders for projects under Mr. Edgar Lungu’s Presidency.
Even with a roundly condemned track record in terms of handling the affairs of Zambians, the current President has shown no sign of stepping down. He has instead declared himself fit to contest the 2021 general election, raising many questions among citizens.
“What is he up to? Does he want to completely destroy this country or what? Is he taking Zambians for fools? “, an economist based in Lusaka, George Mubanga lamented.
When people are looking for measurable improvements in their daily lives, Lungu has stunned citizens with weird statements. “I will win the 2021 elections because I’m a humble President, he said, before recently declaring, ““I am aware of the suffering that Zambians are going through. The economy will rebound in 2020,” President Lungu assured Zambians in a recent statement issued by his Press aide Isaac Chipampe.
However, Edgar’s assurances may fall on deaf ears. Many people feel none of his promises have materialized. His bottom up vision at the moment is responsible for the unprecedented social and economic problems facing Zambians today.
“If you believe in Chagwanomics (the President’s Economics) forget it, 2019 has been a disaster. To say the least, Edgar is taking Zambia nowhere,” opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema warned Zambians during the 2019 end of the year briefing.
As 2021 is now only months away, the scale of the task for President Lungu to reverse and take the leaking boat into the right direction will be an uphill battle. Unfortunately, given the little time left, choosing which of the country’s problems to tackle first is no easy feat. Will he start with the high cost of living? Or will it be dealing with grand corruption? What about the issue of more money in the pockets of citizens? Will it be to lower taxes or restoring sanity in the energy sector? The list of issues to deal with is lengthy and time is not on the side of the captain and his associates in government.
No one appears to be left in doubt now; many Zambians have come to realize and believe that they have twice been sold a false bill of a product in the name of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. For now, it is difficult to comprehend what new formula President Lungu will adopt to fix the numerous national challenges at hand. Everything seems to be against him and the chances of miracles working in his favour are slimmer than a needle.
In a panic mode, Lungu and his administration may be tempted to hurry up the process of resolving issues before 2021. However, many people believe that such maneuvers are bound to fail – it will be like forcing speed on a bicycle whose peddle chain is delicately ready to snap.
As one commented: “Are we Zambians daft by nature? Or is it just in our stars to be blind even when our eyes can see perfectly? Can we surely give Edgar another vote? “, a PF supporter who declined to be named questioned, in reference to President Edgar Lungu’s interest to contest the 2021 polls.