WHY ARE WE HERE?!!!!
No one should be here!! As mentioned in my last post, I went back home (Zambia) in November and I was both excited and petrified. Excited because I would be home, on familiar ground and with people I knew and missed after four years of exile (self-imposed). I was petrified because of the changes the country as a whole had gone through. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I had heard of changes, both good and bad over social media but it’s different to actually experience that change yourself.
I heard about how the economy was performing poorly and how the exchange rate between the dollar and kwacha (local currency) had skyrocketed to triple what it was before. This led to a ridiculous hike in pricing for basic necessities such as groceries and public transportation and all retailers cited the currency exchange as a reason for the increase in basic commodities. Now, as much as all these hikes in pricing took effect, one thing that remained the same is salaries. There has been no increase in paychecks and this creates an even greater imbalance between money earned and money spent just for you to survive.
What’s worse is the load shedding taking place in the country. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, load shedding is basically intentional power cuts country wide to protect the electricity power system and prevent black outs. They cut off your power for periods at a time. This started as a gradual process back when I was in high school in about eleventh or twelfth grade and power would go for about two hours, four at the most. This was bearable because it did not happen every day. That was then.
What’s happening now is atrocious to say the least. The company that supplies electricity to the whole country, ZESCO, now released a schedule detailing when and how long your area will be without power. This helps people know when they will have power and to be ready to get everything they need in the few hours they will have that electricity. The part that sucks though is that sometimes power is turned off way before the scheduled time and comes later than it should. My sisters’ schedule went as follows: power comes at mid night and goes again at six am. It is then scheduled to be back at two pm and go at about ten or something like that. What kills me is why give us electricity when we are sleeping and then right when we wake up, baaam!, it goes!! Like what is that?
Now, one would hope that these power cuts are only relegated to residential homes but sadly not. Businesses are also affected and so are hospitals and clinics. If you cannot afford a generator for your business then you are stuck following these ridiculous schedules and surviving. This is especially bad for most clinics because they are unable to afford generators. And even if they did buy one, who would provide the gas to keep it running consistently? Healthcare providers are unable to do their jobs because what they need is unavailable. A simple blood draw is a pain because you have nowhere to store, no means of processing tests. People have to be transferred to places that have power which isn’t many. There is a serious lack of efficiency. Some businesses are forced to halt production until power comes. Can you imagine how much revenue is lost because of these outages?
And the irony of it all is we supply other countries with electricity! We are unable to power our own nation but here we are exporting electricity to others because we signed a contract to do so some 100 years ago (I exaggerate but you get it). To top it off, we are the cheapest suppliers of electricity in the region if not the continent! There should have been a hike in tariffs years back but it wasn’t done and they now want to hike by over 200 per cent and this does not bode well with the citizenry. There was an announcement about the hike in tariffs but after an outcry from the public, the national President decided meh, let’s not. And that decision was reversed at the cost of losing potential investors into the power supply sector.
Again, I ask; HOW DID WE GET HERE!!?
Here is my little conspiracy theory of how we got here and why we are stuck here with little hope of a turn around. We found ourselves in a country that can barely supply electricity to all its residents 24/7 because of short sight. We had no long term goals or planning. After gaining our independence from the British, we were overjoyed that we could finally govern ourselves and be free in our country. We have come a long way from the colonial days. But what the leadership at the time did not think of or plan for was population growth and infrastructure. We have so many structures up that were not in existence a mere ten years ago. Mining increased but one thing that remained constant was the electricity supply. No one ever thought to build alternative sources of electricity. We relied on the one that was built during colonial times which saw us through to this point. It too is now tired and complaining and struggling to power all these structures. It needs a break.
So many theories have erupted about how its lack of rain, how the Chinese took down equipment that was used at itezhi tezhi dam, replacing it with Chinese equipment and so on and so forth. But really what happened was poor planning. So now we are scrambling like headless chickens trying to find a solution. Just kidding. We really are not. Why? Because, complacency. We are a complacent people. We just accept whatever is handed to us without so much as a fight. We complain for the first few weeks but that’s all we do; complain. Complaining without action is useless in my experience. The problem will still be there. And that’s where we are at. People barely complain now because it’s the norm.
And for those of you blaming the current president, go and have a seat somewhere. Seriously. He hasn’t been in power long enough to actually fuck anything up. If you think about it, which of course most people don’t (not you reading), anyone who took power from the late former president Chiluba, did not stay in power long enough to either make any long term changes to alleviate our economic woes or fuck it up to this point. End rant.