The decision by opposition parties to hold demonstrations on the Copperbelt is a provocative gesture that Zambians must reject.
The Copperbelt is currently a volatile keg given the recent events in which mines have retrenched workers and there is no immediate respite as the commodity rout continues.
A demonstration against the recently increased electricity tariff is unlikely to result in an immediate abatement considering that imports of expensive electricity must continue to feed both industrial and domestic consumption.
Coupled to the immediate exigency is the need to make the generation sector more attractive for investors.
It is wrong for opposition leaders to incite anger and despondency among a captive audience that may not fully understand and appreciate the circumstances giving rise to the condition. If anything the opposition must help find solutions and indeed help calm anxieties.
Edith Nawakwi should be the last person to speak about energy because she was a Minister of energy and never floated the idea of increased energy generation.
Fishing in troubled waters may have short term political benefits that will be outweighed by a vicious counter reaction when people realize that they were taken for a ride for political gain.
A protest demonstration will most certainly attract public support. Any public manifestation will attract the usual crowd of excitable youths who may not even be beneficiaries of electricity service. They will attend in the hope of receiving the usual mob hire fee and hopefully more benefits could follow in the event of looting in the process of the demonstration.
That violence will result is almost certain.
What is also certain is that Zesco will not withdraw the tariff adjustment, which has been imposed by the realities affecting the country.
Firstly, due to the general rain deficit cause by El Nino, Zambia like many other countries in the region is facing a general power deficit due to limited generation capacity. This situation will persist for as long as no new capacity is brought on line.
New capacity will require investment, not just from Government but from the private sector as well, but such investment will not be forthcoming for as long as tariffs are low and therefore not attractive enough for them.
Not even the Government would wish, nor would be wise; to invest in a loss-making entity that would serve more as a drain on national resources than a positive contribution to the economy.
More importantly during this period of deficit Zambia must import electricity at great cost. Plans are underway to import more electricity from Mozambique, where a Turkish electricity generation ship has been commissioned to supply Zambia.
This electricity is coming at a premium and yet it is essential for both domestic and industrial demand, therefore it must be paid for. One alternative is to let Government continue to subsidize but this not sustainable. The International Monetary Fund that visited us recently made it very clear that cost reflective tariffs must be implemented to “cure” fiscal indiscipline and ensure that the private sector was attracted to the sector.
It would be very useful for the opposition parties to indicate how the two contending issues are best resolved to keep the tariffs low.