Self destruction for political gain

We Zambians are our worst enemies.

We take too much for granted and have some of the most unrealistic expectations, hence get terribly devastated when things do not go our way.

Our politicians are even worse they are very hard on each other for the sake of scoring political points, even if this is at a cost to national interest.  In the end the country comes out with a bruised and tattered international perception.

Even the most obvious problems are given a twist to bring down others.

Most recently former Vice President Dr. Guy Scott told Parliament that the Kariba dam was running empty due to negligence and overuse of the share water resource.

He likened the situation to two puppies sharing a milk bowl and each trying to drink as much as possible.

He more or less dismissed the notion that poor rainfall was responsible for the current electricity criusis and yet many other neighbouring countries are facing the same situation. In Tanzania the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company(Tanesco) has been forced to shut down Mtera Hydro power station because of low water levels as a result of poor rainfall.

Persistent drought in the catchment area that fed the dam from  many other parts of the country caused the closure of the plant that was contributing. At its working capacity the dam was contributing 80MW to the national grid.

No such cogent explanation from our own institutions. Our own Engineering Institution of Zambia(EIZ) says the current power crisis has been caused by ZESCO’s delay in  implementing  remedial measures despite early indications of subdued water levels at the Kariba Dam.

Institution President Bernard Chiwala explained that reservoir at Kariba Dam had not reached the  maximum retention level of 488.5 meters in the last five years..

He explained that in spite of the deficit in water the Zambezi River Authority, ZESCO and the Zimbabwe Power Authority (ZESA) continued to generate power way above the 500 megawatts revised threshold, leading to further reduction of water levels.

‘According to Engineer Chiwala the issue of low water levels had been identified earlier but that no measures had been taken to limit offtake with the result that the dam was depleting very quickly.

Mr. Chiwala  blamed the release of 19.98 billion cubic meters (an equivalent of almost one year of generation for either of the power plants) over an 87 day period in 2011. Although this was attributed to safety concerns this may not have been prudent as there was no imminent danger paused by the inflows.’

He does not explain however the fact that any reduction in generation capacity would also impact availability leading to load shedding.

The low reservoir levels for the 2014/15 season, he said were not entirely to blame for the current situation as  the daily reservoir was 80 percent filled during the month of July.

‘The problem he said was that there was an element of over generation at Kariba complex a problem compounding over the years with the result that  ZESCO exceeded its water allocation by 22 percent during 2014.

He further acknowledged that increased economic activity had also increased demand for electricity.

Interestingly no reference is made to the fact that the combination of increased demand from the mines and unpredictable rainfall has combined to the level where load shedding had become inevitable.Instead the blame game had to be invoked so that the local operators could be blamed. The same is true of our currency, the Kwacha. An impression has been crated that the Kwacha is the worst performing currency in the world.

On occasions that has seemed to be the case because of the sharp drop o in copper prices, but the truth is that all emerging economies are hurting and their currencies are equally suffering major reversals. No comparison is made with the Rand in South Africa, the economic powerhouse of the region which has suffered depreciation. From R5 to a dollar a few months ago  it is now R14 to the Dollar.

The reasons for this are not farfetched, the  slide in commodity prices has impacted negatively on all commodity producing countries.

Very unfortunate comparisons have been made of the kwacha to the Ghanaian Cedi, with critics suggesting that the Cedi which had gone into free fall was now firming unlike the Kwacaha which continued in its slide.

The reality is that the Cedi is now enjoying a measure of support because of cushioning through an International Monetary Fund loan support.

A week ago Ghana’s opposition leader, New Patriotic Party, Nana Akufo-Addo, said the specter of Ghana being classified as a “High Risk of Debt Distress” country and coming under the International Monetary Fund, should be enough motivation to vote out the John Mahama administration in 2016. He said the fact that Ghana had to seek assistance from the IMF showed the country was in serious crisis. H e called  on Ghanaians to rise up in 2016 and vote the NPP into power in order to  rebuild the  country.

“We are talking about the situation where our country is down. Young people cannot get work to do, farmers do not have the inputs for their work, industries are closing all over the country, and our currency is now a joke. Every aspect of our national economy is in crisis,” Akufo-Addo said.

“Yesterday, officially, we became HIPC again. The Bank of Ghana published statistics to show that the 70% benchmark of debt-to GDP ratio, which suggests whether you are HIPC or not, has been reached. We will reach 75% by the end of the year. Every aspect of our national economy is in crisis.”

He said an NPP government is Ghana’s surest bet to return the country onto the path of progress and prosperity, a path which President John Agyekum Kufuor put Ghana onto before the NPP exited office in January 2009.

Zambia is still very far from reaching the “HIPC” levels of debt and the Minister of Finance has made every possible effort to ensure that borrowing remains within limits.

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