Is Zesco in safe hands under Victor Mapani?

We are often reminded that the best ways of responding to emergency situations is through prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

For some time now citizens have endured the nuisance but somehow tolerated Zesco’s excuses for failure to supply electricity efficiently. Every time wind blows and is accompanied with drizzles, power goes and Zesco will claim poles have fallen; thieves have stolen transformer oil – a myriad of excuses. Yet we are talking of a parastatal institution that is overflowing in terms of staff numbers and well paid human beings for that matter! For decades, Zesco has been a cash cow for ruling parties just as it has served as an employer of choice for party cadres.

The situation has not improved even under this new dawn! But what people have feared is fast approaching or should we say we are now living and witnessing the crisis of Zesco management’s failure to turnaround and professionally run the public power utility.

The drought has just come in as a perfect alibi for Zesco. To begin with it is not automatic that droughts must lead to massive load shedding. This argument, which even President Hakainde Hichilema advanced when he declared the drought a national disaster and an emergency, actually conceals the arguments advanced by HH himself in opposition against load shedding because of “climate”.

At that time, when he seemed intelligent and full of virgin ideas or solutions, he correctly referred to countries with no rains in a decade but have electricity everyday! It could be that HH and the UPND need to be consistently and constantly made to account for what they said when in the opposition – the lies they sold Zambians. And we assume what they used to proclaim is why they were elected into office.

Now from perpetual power interruptions straight into eight-hour load management doesn’t add up. It is insane. How do you explain that? How possible? You mean Victor Mapani, the managing director of Zesco, and his team have not been carrying out periodic water level assessments to inform their power production decisions? Remember that this is not the first time Victor has plunged Zambia into a power crisis. He successfully dealt the country another blow in late 2022. And he has not learnt any lesson from that. He seems content with failure. We are aware that just like his appointing master HH, Victor has not invested time in appreciating Zesco’s

capabilities and vulnerabilities. Instead, he’s used his position to maximise travel, flying around. It would be interesting to feature HH vs Victor Mapani passports against deliverables. Both are proving to be sweet talkers and huge liabilities to the offices they occupy. As we have stated already, in the case of Victor this is not the first time he’s landed the country in load shedding soon after boasting about Zesco’s capacity and signing various export agreements. Victor must introspect and voluntarily leave Zesco before he places armageddon on our energy sector. While he gets a huge pay cheque and other privileges, can he claim to have worked for all that? Is this strategic parastatal in safe hands with Victor and his inner circle at the helm? Is Victor presiding over a firm that can pass an acid test on good corporate governance? It would be interesting going through Zesco’s books should we have an impartial Auditor General!

As a country dependent on hydro power we expect and pay for managers at Zesco who must be educated, knowledgeable and skilled enough to know how to anticipate such things as possible droughts and floods both which impact our hydro power. The current leadership of Zesco and the UPND government have let Zambia down.

The admission by Victor that 40 per cent of Zesco revenues come from exports of electricity and therefore Zesco cannot alter its export balance in favour of local supply of electricity is shocking. Zesco, a state electricity utility, is telling us that it would rather collapse Zambia’s economy which relies on it to provide electricity than forgo its exports! This is pathetic logic from a public entity owned by the state to provide electricity. Can we be told the actual details of water levels, loss of power generation due to low water levels in dams, current total exports and to which country? Can we also be told the actual import volumes of electricity and at what costs?

Zambians need to know what is going on at Zesco. Not so long ago both Zesco and the UPND government assured us that load shedding was a thing of the past – also because new power producers and massive new investments were on the way in our electricity regime. More than halfway through the UPND regime we are in a second economic and social disaster inducing load shedding, both because of poor management of generation, exports and imports and water in our electricity regime.

This actually amounts to economic, social and therefore political sabotage of the country by the current political leadership at the Ministry of Energy and management and board of Zesco. Zambia can no longer afford to be held to ransom by every drought! This is the problem of leaving strategic public institutions in the hands of ruling party cadres. They don’t care much about delivery, it’s more about posturing.

Meanwhile, as a draconian load shedding regime is introduced, electricity tariffs are to be hiked, both an insult and mockery of the Zambian people by both Zesco and the UPND government. This Zesco management and the appointing authority have no respect or fear of any repercussions from Zambians for their punishing and disastrous management of Zambia’s electricity regime.

The Zambian masses and businesses must refuse to be taken constantly on expensive electricity fools rides by both Zesco and the UPND government. If we can be treated to eight hours of load shedding in March, what will happen in September/October? Aren’t we going to have weeks of load shedding in the country. This should certainly be the worst management and board Zesco has ever had in its history. It is time to completely overhaul and refresh the entire political leadership in the Ministry of Energy and management and board of Zesco. Enough is enough!

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