War on CEC is all about Hichilema

How The Sad Events Expose Antonio Mwanza As A Functional Illiterate

A vibrant private sector is a key driver of any successful economy and this theory can’t be overemphasized when contexualized to assess the happenings in Zambia. It brings into perspective the machinations by the ruling class, the Patriotic Front government, to annihilate Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC).

The script being applied is not different from the one used in the closure of Fred M’membe’s Post Newspaper and Gerald Shawa’s Prime TV. In the case of The Post, a tax debt was used to put a lid on a flagship media institution that had re-defined Zambia’s traditional media landscape for close to 30 years.

M’membe and The Post were perceived an enemy of the state because he opposed President Edgar Lungu’s ascendance to power. Today, Prime TV is painted with the same brush for standing out with a schedule of guests and news reports that fearlessly provided checks and balances.

As the PF government machinery switch gear into 2021 when the Presidential and General elections are to be held, focus has moved from from The Post and Prime TV to CEC. The electricity company is the PF’s new target.

Whereas technical jargon and explanations are being advanced and applied to justify an evident criminal and mafia styled attempt to destroy a vital private institution, the behind the scene dynamics is that the ruling party perceives the targeted institution as one entity owned by an opposition leader in the form United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema.

It’s an open secret that Alliance for Democratic and Development president Charles Milupi is a minority shareholder in CEC and so are many politically connected individuals, not because CEC courts politics but because it’s a publicly listed company trading on the Lusaka Securities Exchange meaning that anyone, any person at all, can freely buy and own shares in the company. CEC can’t stop anyone from buying or selling its shares. Of the many Zambians who own shares in CEC, no such record exists of Hichilema owning shares in the company exists. He has nothing to do with CEC.

In fact, in his own words during a recent interview with Diamond TV’s Costa, Hichilema was explicitly asked if he owned any shares in CEC.

His response, “I don’t have shares in CEC. You don’t go for CEC just because the PF politicians don’t have shares in it. You don’t go for HH’s businesses everyday sending tax investigation after investigation. You are killing not HH.

“HH will survive whether you damage one farm of his, you damage his business, HH will survive. That’s a fact. You are not damaging HH, you are damaging employees.”

Hichilema is a businessman of international repute. His well-known businesses have suffered all manner of assault from the ruling class all because he chose to offer himself to serve the country. CEC is none of his business, but the company is being targeted on suspicion it belongs to the UPND leader and, therefore, cannot do business with the government or even exist as a business. What kind of sick politics is this?

The government, on the other, hand owns 24.1% of CEC through ZCCM-IH and is the second largest shareholder in the company. And it doesn’t end there, many public pension schemes have invested in CEC because it has proved to be a good investment vehicle for them to grow their pensioners’ money, Zambians’ money. Talk about a mother killing her own child!

And the other individuals with shares in the company are never talked about because they are on the right side of the politics.

Many are oblivious to the battle CEC is enduring. Put simply, CEC has been supplying electricity to KCM and the mines on the Copperbelt for more than 60 years. A lot of people talk about 23 years perhaps because they don’t know the history of the company or choose to minimize its significance. From 1997, this had been carried on through agreements for power supply and power purchase between CEC, ZESCO and CEC’s customers – the mines who of course included KCM, which was placed under “liquidation” by the government through ZCCM-IH, which is a minority shareholder in KCM.

While under liquidation, KCM has not paid for its contractual obligation to CEC with debt now standing at $144.7 million. CEC filed a legal suit to get its debt from KCM and while this is happening, the government, owners of KCM [at the moment] find an opportunity to fix CEC for its alleged connection to Hichilema, which as already established, doesn’t exist but is fiction made up in their warped imagination.

They take advantage of the expiry of the power supply agreement (PSA) between KCM and CEC which is subject to renewal to deal with Hichilema.

In the background, the government goes to its electricity supply entity, Zesco, directing the institution to supply power to KCM without regard for a key player as CEC.
While applying the mafia style to destroy CEC, the PF government has fixed its arsenals on Hichilema. They hope this misguided effort will fix Hichilema and make him fail to win the 2021 elections.

And so, the government realise they do not have the infrastructure to do what CEC has been doing to meet the expectations of the mines. Further to exerting its machinery, the government has disregarded CEC’s role and ordered that its infrastructure becomes a common carrier.

The government is virtually attempting to nationalize a company they have no capacity to manage.

This declaration that CEC infrastructure will become common carrier occurred just hours before the expiry of CEC’s PSA with KCM, which took effect at midnight on 31 May 2020. The PF government swiftly signed Statutory Instrument number 57. This followed failed negotiations for the renewal of the Bulk Supply Agreement (BSA) between CEC and ZESCO, which lapsed on 31 March 2020.

In the run-up to SI 57 which attempts to incriminate CEC as attempting economic sabotage for demanding its dues and protecting its property and commercial rights was a mafia designed piece of legislation. Here is a sequence of events:

1) 8 May 2020 – CEC institutes measures to recover debt from KCM, which has now grown to over USD144 million

2) 13 May 2020 – KCM admits its indebtedness to CEC

3) 26 May 2020 – ZESCO requests use of the CEC transmission network to supply power to its new unknown client on the Copperbelt and requests for a meeting in the first week of June 2020

4) 28 May 2020 – CEC acknowledges the ZESCO request, stating that it stands ready to start negotiations as long as the customer involved has no valid agreement with CEC and does not owe CEC money

5) 28 May 2020 – the Minister of Energy writes to CEC asking the Company to give path to ZESCO to supply power to KCM

6) 29 May 2020 – GRZ through the Minister of Energy promulgates SI 57 declaring CEC infrastructure COMMON CARRIER

7) 31 May 2020 – ERB writes CEC setting a wheeling tariff equivalent to about 30% of CEC’s current network tariff (current tariff charged for using the CEC network).

If this is not evidence enough that the government is on a mission to fix CEC, it will be pointless to demonstrate to cadres otherwise. This is why the likes of Antonio Mwanza is hopping from one radio station to another to justify a criminality. And instead of sounding reasonable, he comes out as one of those functional illiterates who spent time in high walking with the Abbott text book but knew nothing about the content.

Zambians must rise up and protect their country from the shackles of looters.

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