By Courage Shumba:
Somethings are just above politics. They are things citizens must do for themselves and approach government to legislate or facilitate mechanisms for possible implementation. Citizens have a duty to be creative. Government cannot be a geek for every situation, every kind of problem
A government’s role must be facilitative ensuring that conditions are put into place to translate ideas into products and services.
Sometimes we fail ourselves by waiting upon government and limiting our creativity to unlock ourselves out of enslaving situations. I dare say there is no governement in the world that can make political capital out of failing to reign in an energy crisis.
I have great admiration for Strive Masiyiwa.
Some days ago I wrote to him. I wrote to him seeking a brief conversation about something very disturbing in an area where his experience and money can make landmark changes. There are many others in positions of privilege with a capacity to invest in noble ideas.
I do not believe that it is proper or still fashionable for a mere power supply company (ZESA) to have the authority to shape, determine or control a citizen’s life and lifestyle to the degree that it does.
Yet in my country, Zimbabwe , this bizarre occurrence has been accepted and normalised one would think there is nothing politically or economically wrong with a parastatal directly interfering with the way people live their lives.
There is a moral and constitutional question that needs to be attended to. What right does a parliament, a government, or parastatal have to introduce and retain a semi-monopoly that essentially interferes with how people plan and live their lives on a day to day basis?
Can you imagine a country where decisions about shopping and stocking of food by families are controlled by fear of erratic electricity supply. A country where a banking transaction, a telephone conversation, a get together, a business presentation, a party, a wedding, a honeymoon: anything’s success is at the mercy of a power supply authority?
Is it acceptable that a mere energy authority can have this God like power to affect decisions and plans by merely switching on or off a whole street, a whole residential, a whole industrial complex or a whole university by the push of a button.
I once wrote to Elton Mangoma , then Minister of Energy in the previous government advising that Zesa’s monopoly was counterproductive and that the world was full of energy models we could copy and emulate. The minister never wrote back.
My struggle continues, albeit now with my own blue print on the technical forensics of how that should go about. The problem continued throughout Mangoma’s incumbency and still plagues the entire nation without an end in sight.
I am told there have been experiments with prepaid meters with the emphasis being on catching up with the debt that Zimbabwe owes. If that is the case the emphasis is wrong. Why a communal bill? Why a collective debt over something so personal as use of electricity?
Electricity like salt, mangoes, cigarettes is a mere commodity that must be available on the market controlled by the same market forces that affect trade and pricing everywhere else.
It is possible, if the will is there, to ensure that Zimbabwe catches up on the debt it owes whilst not going through disruptive load shedding if we look at the financial potential we have in the private sector .
That is exactly why I have written to Strive Masiyiwa given his initial hardship when he was setting up Econet. People like Masiyiwa can give us Eco Energy if together we lay down the framework for the supply of electricity on a cash culture basis.
Load shedding kills investment, employment creation, tourism, our hospitality industry and the general morale of our people.
It is far too ambitious and impossible to be exhaustive on this forum on specific details of how a strategic plan to overcome our energy deficiency can be structured. Having said that the idea of a communal bill has stretched the national purse needlessly.
To be able to overcome our energy woes we need to reach a consensus. We need the consumer, private sector and government to come to an agreement on how we are to implement the procurement and supply of electricity going forward.
My research has proved to me that it is possible to deal decisively and immediately with the issue of blackouts within our country if our government is willing to allow the private sector to play a part in a manner that focuses on constant supply whilst debts are paid where they exist.
This is a matter above party politics.
It is a matter in which those with the brilliant ideas of how we can move forward should be supported by business and government in ensuring that the legal framework which protects monopoly is pushed aside, and the experiments with pre-paid meters are focusing on achieving scalable results, and above all that our nation is moving closer and closer to ensuring that as a culture we are disappearing away from the era of load shedding.
As with the advent of mobile communication there is always an elephant is the room. Hence why I wrote to Strive Masiyiwa, one of our own respectable, honest and transparent businessmen whose four year battle with the state was to bring us modern age mobile technology.
Masiyiwa ‘s experiences and business acumen are a lesson to us that second best is no option where there is no first to begin with.
What we have in Zesa is a communal debt. What that means is that however creditworthy I am, I will be treated like a debtor, restricted as such,the basis being that collectively, we owe Cabora Bassa some money. How on earth can that be justified? Everyone uses electricity their own way, own quantity and it is for them to pay and live within individual means.
I have a solution for this problem, I am a Zimbabwean and I intend to work together with government and business like and interested parties to eliminate load shedding in our country for good.
Every citizen has a part to play in the development of his nation. Every citizen must be an active participant in solving national problems.
Every idea must be taken seriously in our journey towards reconstructing a crumbling infrastructure and out-dating dead rule books that no longer can support our common good.
We have a duty to our nation. A duty to be creative and agile in difficult times such as these. Big business and government have a duty to support liberating ideas. That way we all win. We need a parrallel to Econet Wireless. We need Eco Energy supported by our indeginisation programme.