THE reasons for the current electricity load shedding by Zesco are understandable, but certainly not the modality.
Although load shedding schedules have been published these are more often observed in breach than in practice, meaning that the exercise is not only intermittent but at worst haphazard thereby putting business houses and domestic users in a quandary.
The resulting anger and tension is palpable because of the immense losses suffered by victims of load shedding.
This need not be the case, if the load shedding was planned, advertised and executed in a manner that enables consumers plan ahead of time. There is no doubt that ZESCO has the ability to predict and therefore plan load shedding well in advance in a manner that could allow them formulate very clear schedules, however, stringent or biting.
It is indeed a fact that even at the best of times when the country has received sufficient rainfall a measure of load shedding takes place because of power deficit.
That is why there is need for further investment in power generation to meet the ever increasing demand. The current shortfall can be attributed to failure by planners to forecast and therefore implement a growth strategy to accommodate burgeoning demand.
The other problem is more political. Most Governments are loathe to increase electricity tariffs for fear of losing popularity. This is certainly the case is South Africa where power shortages have reached critical proportions with massive rolling load shedding which we have been spared.
Their deficit is so bad that a combination of hydro, coal and nuclear energy has failed to ameliorate the situation.
Attempts to increase tariffs are being widely resisted but increasingly it is dawning on society that black outs are far much more expensive than the relatively mundane tariff increases that are being proposed by the energy regulators.
The need for investment in the energy sector has never been more compelling. With the increase in mining activities and upsurge in industry coupled with the need to bring electricity to as many Zambians as possible, huge amounts of money which government alone will not be able to raise will be required.
This requires private sector participation with a contribution of course from the consumers who must pay a realistic rate in order to finance current and future consumption.
There is no shortcut to infrastructure development. Nothing can be done without pain and the sooner we Zambians realize this, the better.
At the same time, the providers must realize that Zambians will not accept inefficiency, shoddy work and over priced services.
It is one thing to ask consumers to pay a realistic tariff but another to expect them to pay for inefficiency, abuse and incoherent services.