When Zambian President Michael Sata was leader of the then biggest opposition the Patriotic Front, he gained political mileage from a short spell of fuel shortage and rode his election campaign on the pretext to end a systematic load shedding applied by Zesco.
Sata managed to win sympathy from Zambians. Majority of youths believed the so-called ‘man of action’ was the messiah and his ascendance to the throne was the answer to their problems.
After all, he promised that the minimal power blackouts experienced at the time, which Zesco would ordinarily communicate to consumers through the press, would be a thing of the past.
The comical Sata even stage-managed an incident at which he went round service stations in Lusaka with a 20 litre plastic container deceiving unsuspecting Zambians he was feeling the pinch of the crisis and would do better than the president Rupiah Banda given the opportunity. Now the opportunity to be in Rupiah’s position is here. And the same fuel situation Rupiah faced is also here. How different is Sata handling the situation from Rupiah? Presently, the crisis is spiraling out of control and having an adverse impact on the economic.
Sata, in fact, promised that any such situation as fuel crisis and power blackouts will be a thing of the past within 90 days of assuming office.
It’s over eight months since Sata came to power and the fuel situation is at one of its lowest times ever in the country. The power blackouts have spread to all parts of Zambia and there is no hope the PF government will do anything, anytime soon.
Most saddening, Sata’s apparent government of action has extended the 90-day period to resolve the load shedding to sometime in 2017.
What is disturbing is that permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy George Zulu can even afford the luxury of giving absurd excuses for the fuel crisis including the laughable blame on an estimated 50, 000 football crowd that traveled to Ndola for a World Cup qualifier involving Ghana and Zambia. How cheap can a government get in shielding its incompetence? Zulu’s reasoning is startling to say the least and raises serious questions about his competence in that office.
That match was an international game watched by majority Zambians only and could in no way put pressure on the situation if there is sufficient stock to meet average demand. It is not the first time Zambia has hosted international matches for Zulu to attempt using an innocent situation as a scapegoat for a poor leadership. How could a single match create such adverse effect on the country’s fuel situation? It’s utterly illogical that a technocrat in Zulu’s position would use such an embarrassingly lame excuse to hide the failures of the PF leadership. Didn’t they just ‘donate’ 5 million litres of fuel to Malawi recently? Clearly there is poor planning on the part of Sata’s leadership.
Can Zulu, as the man also responsible for power supply, also explain the worsening situation with power blackouts currently affecting a lot of households when his boss promised to resolve this within 90 days?
What Zulu must admit is that neither the fuel nor the load-shedding situation is improving and the ordinary Zambian is feeling the effect of the poor management of the energy sector.
There are long queues of fuel around the country including the capital city, Lusaka. This situation started with remote areas such as Mansa, Solwezi and Choma but has now spread countrywide. It’s certainly getting out of hands while Michael Sata is enjoying expensive champagne in Europe. One wonders where that 20 litre plastic container he used during Rupiah era is stored. He will do well to join Zambians on the fuel queues again.
No doubt, opposition UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema, was spot on when he said the fuel shortage is a sign of failure on the part of the ruling party.
Whether a burst or routine maintenance at Indeni Oil Refinery as Zulu wants to make Zambians believe is the reason for this disastrous management of the energy sector, the PF is evidently failing to offer leadership.
Instead of specialising in press briefings at which nothing more than rhetoric is being offered, Zulu owes Zambians an explanation for awarding an oil supply contract to Trafigura.
I am appalled that Zulu can have the courage to give false statements to Zambians about the crisis from the comfort of his office where he does not lack the same fuel Zambians are queuing for. He should admit there is a leadership problem that has caused this disaster and their corrupt marriage with Trafigura will make the situation even worse.