So, after all that braggadocio about ending load shedding, the “New Dawn” administration has failed to “fix it” and are doing damage control with lots of egg on their faces. They have been giving endless explanations for their failure to fix load shedding. Among the explanations, acts of God, it’s the fault of PF, missing turbines, low water in Kariba, etc.
We keep hearing statements about how they have put measures in place to mitigate load shedding and yet they rarely ever give any proper details of what those measures are. What is going on? Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) and ZESCO are continuously monitoring the levels of water in Kariba Dam every single day. ZRA even publishes on their website the water levels here: https://www.zambezira.org/hydrology/lake-levels
There is no way ZRA and ZESCO were blindsided and did not know this extreme 12 hour load shedding was coming. You cannot lose water in the dam in one day. They could see months ago from how the water level was dropping that we would hit a crisis by December 2022. There are plenty of questions right there.
Did ZRA and ZESCO inform government what was coming? Did government officials see the reports and memos and simply shoved them into the drawers in their desks or put them in cabinets and left them to gather dust as usually happens? If government officials were aware what was happening, why did they not direct ZESCO to begin load shedding at a lower level of say 2 hours per day starting 6 months ago so that more water remained in the dam and today we have fewer hours?
Why did the President keep insisting “there is no more load shedding” when the people in the know could have warned him that it was around the corner? If he knew back then what he knows now, would he have made those big fancy statements about ending load shedding? Were people scared to tell the President the truth? Why didn’t his own Minister of Energy, who is an Engineer, bring him up to speed with the correct facts? If people are not telling him the truth, then what more other bigger problems coming in the future? Or maybe they did tell the President the truth but he decided to ignore it?
Whatever the truth is, Team Red have failed big time. They cannot keep talking about acts of God and water in the dams. We simply do not care and are not interested in hollow explanations. We are only interested in action to solve the problem. That is why they were elected.
Their messaging and handling of the issue has been shocking. First, we were told 6 hours of load shedding would start on 15th December 2022 and a schedule was published. Then we were told load shedding had not yet started, but power losses were just due to repairs and maintenance. Then real load shedding started, but suddenly within 48 hours, it was increased to 12 hours! How? Zambia is a nation where reality and fiction coexist seamlessly.
As I explained in my earlier article on this issue in December 2022, the causes of the problem are known. The solutions are known. They are documented in reports going back 20 years. The biggest single factor in resolving this problem immediately is the artificially low electricity tariffs that government insists on and spends billions of Kwacha subsidising. They know that our electricity tariffs are too low but they refuse to let them rise freely until demand and supply equalise. Is keeping the tariffs low an act of God surely?
We are told of a new dam yet to be built on Luapula River which will realistically take up to 5 years to build, by which time we shall have around 22 million Zambians. We are told of solar power plants which will also take years to fully bring online as climate change worsens. The artificially low tariffs mean there will still be lots of problems down the line because electricity companies need good profits so that they can invest in more generation, maintenance and upgrades of equipment. To make matters worse, ZESCO has a debt of $3.5 billion as of 2019. Maamba Power plant alone (which government is trying to push to reopen) is owed over half a billion by ZESCO!
Team Red has some hard choices to make. They can continue with the status quo of low tariffs with endless load shedding resulting in pain on Zambians with poor economic growth rates, or they can take the bold decision to properly increase electricity tariffs, end load shedding and face the heat. Zambians are no longer patient with politicians who make huge empty promises that turn out to be hollow. As I argued earlier, I think most Zambians would rather have expensive electricity that is always on, than cheap power that is there half the day. Over to you Team Red.