By Gershom Ndhlovu
Everyone in Zambia is now resigned to the daily ritual of power outages. Households are as hit as small businesses such as barbershops. Hospitals, banks, manufacturing and mining that need power for major operations like pumping water from underground, to smelting and other vital functions are as badly hit.
The fundamental problem apart from the constantly breaking down generators at the primary sources of electricity at Kariba North Bank and Kafue Gorge is that there has not been new investment in the generation sector while demand for power has increased in quantum leaps.
New mines are opening all over the place such as the nickel mine at Munali Hills in Southern Province, the new mine at Lumwana and the revived Kansanshi, Bwana Mkubwa as well as increased mining and related activities at Chambishi have all added to the pressure on the power generating facilities.
This is in addition to the existing mines at Nkana, Nchanga, Konkola and Luanshya when anything is going on there.
What is happening in the power sector is a reflection of the problem that Zambia faces as a nation—the lack of long-term planning in all sectors. Zambians are such a consumptive people they live for today. Surely, someone somewhere in Zesco as well as in government knew, or they ought to have known, that by 2008 demand for power would go up but whoever it is or whoever they are, chose to hide their head or heads in the sand with what has become the new national anthem--fikaisova.
When I first visited Botswana in 1993, I was struck by the number of solar panels I saw on top of people’s houses and I further learnt that most households used gas for cooking. And true indeed, there were gas cylinders hooked to people’s kitchens all over the place.
I equally remember very well that there was a time when BP Zambia was promoting the use of solar panels which they were selling. It is either their novelty did not catch on the people or the people just thought it was dumb to use solar panels. The company abandoned that bit of business and concentrated on what it does best—selling petrol.
Geysers and lighting can run on solar power very well without worrying about the Rhodney Sisala bunch leaving you to run for home-made koloboyi paraffin lamps when there is a sudden power cut.
What is more is that Zambia has so much of the sun that people take it for granted. One just has to spend a few winter months in Europe when it is very cold, dark and wet. The sun is only seen for a few hours per day and yet the way the Europeans harness the sun is amazing.
But then, the problem is Zambian engineers who at best can be described as mechanics rather than innovators who should have been thinking about alternative sources of energy long before this crisis.
All they do is sit in posh offices, read newspapers and make sure their imprest is being processed for them to go and look at blown transformers in some remote parts of the country.
In other parts of the world where people are talking about power needs in 2050 are already looking at establishing wind farms to generate power and in some places the wind power generating towers are already standing. This is apart from generating power from nuclear sources which is out of our reach.
A senior banker mentioned to me about the discovery of a bankable document on the development of Kafue Gorge Lower which was produced in the Kaunda administration but was left to gather dust in the archives. What is worse is that the document was discovered after the government had engaged a European company to produce another document which would only be ready after 24 months.
But even as the government has seen sense and removed duty on energy-saving appliances, knowing Zambians the appliances will be out of reach of the ordinary citizens such that owning a solar panel will be another zimya neighbour status symbol.
I am forced yet again to return to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi whom a number of African have seen through and reject the way he is pushing for the Federated Union of African States or United States of Africa.
From the speech he gave in Uganda last week, it is very clear that had the US of Africa materialised, he would definitely had hijacked it especially if he would have been the one bankrolling it.
Gaddafi told a group of impressionable youths, some of whom were not impressed anyway, that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe are revolutionaries who should never retire.
"When I look around Africa there a few true African leaders; in eastern Africa I see only Museveni and southern Africa there is only Mugabe, others are (in) Senegal and Cameroon," Gaddafi as the over 2,000 youths, who attended the 10-day conference, reacted differently to the remarks.
Imagine what could have happened to those of us who are so accustomed to free and fair elections had this man had his way of forming his so-called African government. I believe most Zambians cherish the citizens’ ability to remove leaders when they have had their time.
We also cherish the fact we are the masters of the leaders that we chose by giving them time to run state affairs and when we decide that they cannot continue or when they have done two five year terms, they step down.
We removed President Kaunda at the time the rest of Africa did not believe it was possible to remove leaders democratically. We stopped President Chiluba from going for an unconstitutional third term just by sheer resolve of not countenancing political lunacy.
The Libyan strongman who has been head of state for his country for close to 40 years must know that the days of forcibly removing leaders are over in most African countries.
Model African countries should be Tanzania, Mozambique, and Botswana where President Festus Mogae is voluntarily stepping down in the next few days. Now what is wrong with that, Colonel Gaddafi?