Some lodges, supermarkets and other business houses who are major employers in Kabwe have said they will cut down about half of their labour force due to the 400 percent increase in electricity tariffs by the power utility company Zesco. An estimated 1,000 people may be rendered jobless.
The business owners said that the electricity costs have raised their costs of doing business and have been left with no option but to lay off some workers in order to remain in business. With an already high unemployment rate, the move will condemn many youths to the street and increase in vices like prostitution and robbery in the former mining town.
Other than some government institutions, trading and hospitality industry has been the mainstay of Kabwe after the failure by PF government to reopen Mulungushi Textiles and to revamp the Kabwe Industrial Fabrics (Kifco).
During his press conference last year, President Edgar Lungu directed Zesco to increase the electricity tariffs and following the company’s response has seen electricity bills rise by over 400 percent for commercial and industrial sectors. Commercial farms have also been affected and one farmer disclosed that previously he used to pay between K5,000 and K7,000 per month but is now paying in the range of K30,000 to K35,000.
Just after the tariffs were increased, Ferro Alloys placed the plant on care and maintenance, sending over 200 people into unemployment.