The Ministry of Home Affairs has directed ZESCO Limited, Zambia’s sole supplier of electricity to install pre-paid energy metres in police camps in a move aimed at saving government money.
However, scores of police officers have protested saying they cannot manage to pay electricity bills from their meager salaries.
But Minister Edgar Lungu has said the installation of pre-paid electricity metres was not meant to punish police officers without explaining why the government wants the police to pay for their own electricity bills.
The Zambia Police Service and other defence force wings are entitled to free mealie-meal rations, water, housing and electricity.
When President Michael assumed power, he directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop giving mealie-meal rations to the police and defence force wings because the government would start paying an allowance for the food. The police officers and their counterparts in the defence force wings are now receiving a paltry K50,000 (USD10) for mealie-meal.
The move to install pre-paid metres in police camps means the police will have to foot their own electricity bills, which is unprecedented.
Lungu has said the government is engaged in talks with the police command to address the officer’s complaints.
Lungu said the police in Kabwe must not panic because the PF was a listening government and it was doing its best to improve their conditions of service.
“The officers must relax and not panic because their concerns are being taken care of and this is the reason why we are already talking with police command,” he said.
In Central province, police officers are worried about the government’s decision installation of ZESCO Limited prepaid meters in their houses.
“Our salaries have not been increased for a long time. We have seen politicians increasing their salaries, but why are they neglecting us in the service. This is not what they promised us,” said a policeman who sought anonymity.
Some police officers interviewed said it was unfair to install the meters before adjusting their salaries.
Typically, a police officer’s average take home pay is K1.5 million (300).
Some police officers said the government pronouncement to fight corruption in the police service would remain a pipe dream officers would always remain susceptible to bribes and other forms of graft.
Last week ZESCO started installing pre-paid electricity metres in Kabwe but there is resistance by police officers and their families who could not allow engineers to install the metres.
The installation programme only resumed after a directive from the police command was issued to allow the fitting.