PF minister agrees its generators, not drought causing loadsheding

The Zambezi River Authority has fined Zesco US$685,000 misusing water in the Kariba Dam due to the Chinese turbines that were installed by the corrupt PF government. Zambia is currently over utilising its water allocation in the Kariba Dam.

The PF has now told the nation exactly what the Watchdog has always told Zambians that the exceeding of the permissible maximum operating hours of the generators at Kariba North Bank has contributed to the rapid fall in water levels at the dam, hence the wanton load-shedding that citizens have been subjected to. This is not due to drought as the PF government has tried to spin the story.

This morning, Energy deputy minister, Charles Zulu, told Parliament in response to a supplementary question by Chongwe PF member of parliament Sylvia Masebo who asked him to admit that mismanagement of the water in the Kariba Dam had caused the load-shedding misery that Zambians were facing. Mid last year, the Zambian Watchdog,  specialised in guerilla journalism, revealed that kickbacks were behind the corruption that led to the original generators at Kariba North Bank to be replaced with Chinese generators that use more water to produce less electricity and that this was the real reason for the loadshedding not drought.

The generators were sold for some chaps to pocket the proceeds while the replacement generators were good enough. Even foreign newspapers have now decided to produce articles based on this truth while the government thinks it can continue to dupe Zambia. Dr Greg Mills, who heads the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation, in his article “The deficits behind Zambia’s power problems” published on The Daily Maverick website on 29th February 2016, states his case as follows: “A second problem concerns the management of the resource. The contemporary excuse generally trundled out for Zambia’s shortages and brown-outs is the low level of Kariba. Certainly the dam is low, though rainfall levels are at the historical norm.

Independent assessments at Mwinilunga of the 2014/15 season have them at 1,300mm compared to the average of 1,350mm. This does not constitute a drought in anybody’s language. But be careful of what you wish for. Zambia may well have a very dry season in 2015/16. Given the low level of the dam at the start of the season, the worst consequences of the misuse of water may still be ahead.

This raises a key question: Why did Kariba not recharge from January 2015? The only exception to the historical record of dam recharging is 2014/15 (the purple line on the above chart). This corresponds with the commissioning of the new North Bank turbines. As the Zambezi River Authority noted in July 2015, “It is notable that the lake has been drawn down considerably due to the higher turbine outflows than the inflows.” Some suspect that the emergency 360MW North Bank generators, which are supposed to be employed for three to four hours a day as peaking units, have been run continuously, lowering the water level. If this is the case, where did the power go? If the power was sold, where did the money go? Rather than focusing on solvable issues, the debate around Zambia’s (and Zimbabwe’s) energy problems has dwelled on the parlous state of the Kariba wall, for which a $300-million donor remedy is touted, thank you.

But local engineers have refuted the risk posed by the hole gouged by incessant spillage, no less than 75m from the toe of the dam wall, not least since the spillage has reduced with constant turbine use. The cost of poor power performance has compounded Zambia’s economic woes. The Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda, said in parliament this week that the 2016 budget deficit will widen to 8.1 percent of gross domestic product from a target of 3.8 percent. He notes the economy was projected to grow at little more than half the original aim of 7 percent, and inflation was expected to come in at 15 percent, more than double its target” Wait for the next excuse when the Kariba Dam relatively fills up with these rains. Whatever excuse the PF will give, the Zambian Watchdog shall be here to give you the truth before the PF even knows whats happening.

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