Open letter to Zesco director

ALFRED A. K. NDHLOVU

Plot No. 594, Gardenia Avenue, Avondale

E-mail Address: [email protected]

LUSAKA

 

August 07, 2012

Mr. Cyprian Chitundu

Managing Director

ZESCO Ltd

Stand No. 6949, Great East Road

P. O. Box 33304

LUSAKA

 

Dear Mr. Chitundu

LOAD SHEDDING IS A PROBLEM WHICH MUST BE SOLVED

I write in order to comment on your statement on the above subject which you made on ZNBC-TV Sunday Interview programme with Mr. Kenneth Maduma. As the programme started, I called my rural based relative to ask the family to watch your interview. I was told that they had no “ZESCO power” and that food was being prepared outside the house on a wood fire! Thus, they could not certainly follow your interview at that time.

I must state from the very beginning that load shedding is a problem which requires a lasting solution. It is you and your colleagues who should work very hard to solve it sooner rather than later. Note that excuses are not and will never be solutions. Zambia should be made to take availability of electricity power supply for granted as it once did. That is possible. We, Zambians, are men and women of resolve and as such, you must have that rare resolve and courage of duty to solve the problem instead of fishing out scapegoats.

Your biggest client, the mining industry, suffered setbacks in the 1980’s and 1990’s attributed to nationalization and the fall of copper prices on the London Metal Exchange. The John Kaluzi administration did all that it could to normalize the situation. As is well known, a loss of any customer, more so big ones, has a negative effect on revenue of the company. We passed that time.

When Mr. Robinson Mwansa took over the management of the company in the 1990’s, he made ZESCO Ltd vibrant. He re-energized the company with several measures intended to maximize on settling bills. The load shedding was not part of corrective measures. This history is important for you and ZESCO Ltd.

As we entered the 2000’s with Messrs Sisala and Mupwaya at the helm in that order, load shedding was introduced. It has increased under your current administration. The company spends a lot of money advertising load shedding schedules and sending mobile phone text messages to some affected clients like me. This is good but when will the load shedding go? Are you teaching us to accept it and learn to live with it? As customers, we need reliable and quality service from ZESCO Ltd. We pay and pre-pay what you determine to be competitive rates. You need to serve us much better than you have hitherto done in the recent past years.

The pre-paying metres programme that was started to be installed solves several problems and I am sure that even revenue collection has improved including power conservation which is so vital at this time of shortages of power. This programme must cover the whole country for you to have the full benefits as a company.

You stated that you have a problem with the Tariff at 5 cent per kilowatt hour. You justified this because of consumers of “Kalingalinga, villages, etc.” financial constraints. I do not agree with you. Zambia is a very industrialized and urbanized country. Your customers are the mines, railways, banks, communication service providers, schools, hospitals, breweries, millers, bakeries, farmers, factories, refinery and filling stations, food processors, households etc. These customers are not poor and can afford to pay up to 25 cents, in my view, if they want to consume good and reliable power supply. Pricing of commodities should not take poverty of some communities into account otherwise losses will overwhelm the enterprise. It is a rule in business to make profits. Zambia is developing a free market economy in which ZESCO Ltd should operate profitably in order to compete with others, or indeed by itself. Go to the drawing board to examine this aspect again.

What was the gross revenue of ZESCO Ltd in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010? In other words, how much money do you make per year? If you hide that information, nobody will decide to invest in ZESCO Ltd or any other such company. Many companies announce their incomes quarterly, half yearly and annually. ZESCO Ltd, I am afraid, does not do so for very strange reasons. We only perceive that it has a lot of money which they even donate to politicians. Where on paper is that money and how much is it? It has been observed that each managing director at ZESCO Ltd is hand-in-glove with the president because of money! Such circumstances erode professionalism and competence at work. In the absence of figures, it is difficult to agree that you have financial difficulties which inhibit investment.

You reported that your capacity to generate power is at 1,600 Mega Watts. I am of the view that it is supposed to be 2,500 today. Hydro potential appears to be weak as all sites for building new generating facilities appear to be exhausted. Are there cost effective diesel generators on the market? By 2040/50, Zambia may need 5000 Mega Watts. The economy is growing and so is the population with a lot of implications. Is the nuclear option feasible in Zambia? ZESCO Ltd needs to have a deliberate plan to increase capacity of supply by at least 200 Mega Watts per year in the next 15 years.

Finally, but by no means the least in importance, investment in electricity is inhibited by the tariff which, at 5 cents per kilowatt hour, is too low to attract any reasonable investment. ZESCO Ltd must charge competitive and profitable rates as a leading player in the sector. The duty of government is to look for subsidies and other forms of support for the poor, not to control prices of commodities of any enterprises.

Let us all build a best Zambia together.

Alfred A. K. Ndhlovu 

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