Zesco has managed to convince the Zambians that the massive load shedding they are experiencing is due to the low water level in Lake Kariba. The power utility company has further attributed the diminished quantity of water in the lake to poor rainfall during the 2014/2015 rainy season. In short, Zesco is denying responsibility for the shortage of electricity in the country but heaping the blame on Mother Nature. Should it be so?
What makes some Zambians hesitant to accept that story is the sudden upsurge of power outages. Quite alright there have been power disruptions in the name of load shedding since around 2005. But this one started with a nationwide blackout one April night this year. The explanation given for that power failure was that there was a fault at Luano Power Station which tripped switches at Kafue Gorge and Kariba power generation plants. That is a protective mechanism without which, the Zambians were told, there would have been a disaster in the country.
From the look of things, that is when it was discovered that the volume of water in the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir was low. Since then, Zesco has been compelled to reduce generation at its major power stations resulting in a national capacity deficit of 560 Megawatts. That move, though innocent as it may appear, has been translated into local consumers being subjected to daily, erratic and inequitable rationing of electricity.
Rationing of power is not a problem but the way it is done is the issue that forces many to hail rubbish at Zesco. The company has laid down a reasonable program of load shedding and has distributed it to the public. That is commendable! However, Zesco itself disgracefully fails to adhere to that program. And as a shield from blame when the limited power available is not evenly distributed, there is a note below the schedule which reads: “SCHEDULE CAN CHANGE AT ANY TIME AS THE POWER SYSTEM IS DYNAMIC. AN ADDITIONAL 30 MINUTES SHOULD BE ALLOWED FOR SWITCHING OPERATIONS.” So, if the power that was intended for Matero Township, for instance, is instead and intentionally diverted to Kabulonga Township, that note automatically shields the supplier from liability.
Let us take Ndola as a case in point. According to the Northern Division Load Management July, 2015 Schedule, Zamtel College, Northrise, Sinia, Kansenshi, Presidential Guest House, Masala and Skyways are supposed to be severed from the electrical network on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 15:00 hours. Unfortunately, people in Masala and Skyways always complain that the schedule is never followed. Their cry is that there are times when they don’t have power three times in one day and sometimes every day of the week. Instead of the times on the schedule, they have at times experienced darkness between 20:00 and 05:00 hours. These people feel cheated even if ‘the power system is dynamic.’
Considering that Masala is the powerhouse of robbers in Ndola, some residents have been prompted to suspect that there is conniving between Zesco employees and thugs who attack and rob innocent people when it is dark. Places of worship have not been spared during these nocturnal thefts whenever there is load shedding. Surely why would anyone even think of withdrawing power from Masala at night?
As mentioned earlier in this article, the problem of load shedding may be beyond Zesco’s capacity to rectify but to earn public sympathy and respect, the company must stick to its values. These values are clearly stated as follows: “We embrace our values of Integrity, Love, Health & Vitality, Wisdom and Success by::
• Being honest in all our dealings
• Supporting each other
• Having a balance in our lives
• Being open to new ideas
• Developing leaders.”
So, it (Zesco) must start with the first point by honestly sticking to its load shedding schedule so that its customers can also plan their businesses well. If they deal honestly with their customers, then, if once in a while the ‘schedule changes at any time as the power system is dynamic,’ no one will castigate the electricity supplier.