Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Zambia Should Go Back To Thermal Power Generation

…Infrastructure Already Exists


Zambia’s power distribution infrastructure is amazing if you know the source of the power lines at the Kariba Dam on the border with Zimbabwe and Kafue Gorge or Namalundu as it is fondly known as it snakes through the rest of the country all the way to Chililabombwe and the rest of the country.
I have been privileged to walk across the Kariba Dam wall and also socialise at a club on a hill overlooking Kafue Gorge power station. However, I have not been fortunate enough to enter the power stations themselves maybe for the simple reason that when I was an active reporter in the early 1990s there was no need for power utility company ZESCO to take reporters around because everything operated smoothly with load-shedding unheard of.
But back to the power lines. If you are coming from Siavonga you cross them at a place called Kariba Store a few kilometres to the north of Siavonga centre. As you drive on towards Lusaka, you cross them again on the Chirundu road and from there, they disappear into the countryside until after you cross the Kafue River when you come across a set of power lines coming from Kafue Gorge, these heading towards Mazabuka’s Nakambala Sugar Estates.
Travelling on Great East Road, you come across the power lines just after Silverest Primary School as they continue on to Kapiri Mposhi up to Maposa between Ndola and Kitwe and up to Luano Power Station near Chingola where they further crisscross to Mufulira, Nchanga and Konkola. The distance from Kariba to Chingola is just jaw-dropping if you have travelled the breadth and length of Zambia.
The irony of ironies, though, is that many, many people living under these power lines do not have access to electricity.
I have been underground at Baluba Mine and Konkola Mine but I have never been in the actual power generation stations. I would, however, imagine what an awesome sight it is to see all those giant turbines being driven by water to generate electric power that runs equipment and lights in industry and in our homes hundreds of kilometres away. It is an inescapable fact that electricity is to our lives almost as oxygen is.

Countrywide Power Outage


One can imagine that a power outage on the scale that hit eightof the 10 provinces of Zambia on April 27, badly affected the people largely dependent on electricity for cooking, lighting and the use of gadgets that make life easier. Even more sadly is the effect the outage had on hospitals particularly those on life-support machines and babies in incubators.
The recent power outage is the third in as many years. Most memorable though is the first power outage which affected both Zambia and Zimbabwe, just over six years ago, was attributed to a cyber attack.
Energy Minister Christoppher Yaluma, sometime in 2013 indicated that load-shedding would be history by December 2014. Five months later and definitely beyond, load-shedding is much part of life in the country. The question that needs to be asked even if load-shedding is sorted out for now, is will the installed capacity be enough to meet the growing demand of electricity for a growing population? Zambia’s population, about 4m shortly after independence, has grown to nearly 15m. Going by the percentages, the population is on target to hit 20 million and above in the next few years.
It is not for me to say how much has been invested in the power sector or how much has been borrowed to fund the rehabilitation of power generation stations. I leave that to economist friends. But what Zambia needs to do is to work on alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind-generated power, both of which are in abundant supply by the providence of Mother Nature. As for the sun, Zambian in particular and Africa in general have not less than 10 hours of sunshine per day compared to places like Europe which in some seasons, enjoy less than six hours of the sun per day.
Only recently we were told that the Kariba Dam wall hasdeveloped cracks that need to be repaired. Perish the thought of the consequences of an unrepaired dam wall because if things got to a point of—God forbid—collapsing, the carnage right from Namomba fishing camp in Lusitu all the way to the mouth of the Zambezi River in the Indian Ocean would be unspeakable.
Zambia needs to go back to thermal power generation which should be the easiest because the infrastructure, if not cannibalized or worse, vandalized, is already in place. For those who have been to the ZESCO head office in Lusaka or shop at the Levy Mall, must have seen the concrete cooling tower in the ZESCO yard. Similar infrastructure exists at the Ndola ZESCO workshop along the Chipulukusu/abattoir road turning off from the Itawa/Airport road. In Kitwe, there is one at the Mopani Copper Mines near the smelter. I am sure these can also be found in Mufulira and Chingola as I am not very familiar with these towns.

Thermal Power As Alternative

 
Developed countries such as the United Kingdom have projected a future power shortage and are working on alternative sources of energy even though they have nuclear power-generated electricity which by any thread of imagination, we would never have in our life time. But we do have the coal in Maamba and Batoka to fire the thermal stations.
Yes, it may be dirty to handle and anachronistic but it is an alternative. Power from those thermal stations could be fed into the grid to power Lusaka and surrounding areas, Ndola and surrounding areas and Kitwe and surrounding areas while power from Kariba and Kafue could be directed to mines and other industries.
When electric power generation sources increase, many people will have access to it at a cheaper rate and will save the environment as people will not be reliant on tree-depleting charcoal and firewood which many people rely upon even when they are connected to the national grid but have to face power outages.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Scooping Fuel From Tanker Accident Scenes Is Dangerous


...The Kabwe Accident 20 Years Ago Is Good Example


One Facebook user, Muchemwa Sichone recently wrote about an overturned fuel tanker along the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway and how it was swarmed by people of all ages and sex scooping and decanting the liquid from the stricken vehicle.
Sichone wrote:
A fuel tanker had an accident on the Ndola - Kitwe dual carriage way today [April 16]. It fell onto it's side and I was just awed by the blatant disregard for safety and life that every "container opportunistic scavenger" in man, woman as well as child was demonstrating. The Police and Fire Brigade were nowhere in sight to secure the site. It's things like this that are more of an indicator for me about the state of this nation than the US$ rate...#StartThinking.”
On another Facebook post, someone who saw the same accident reported how policemen who finally got to the accident scene, were also wet from the fuel. It would appear that the law enforcement officers also joined the jamboree of scooping the essential juice along with the rest of the citizens.
As I read the two posts, my memory raced back to an incident involving a fuel tanker that had overturned near Hindu Hall on the Kabwe-Kapiri highway just over 20 years ago. I was a reporter on the Sunday Mail then and travelled to Kabwe to cover the incident.
People scooping petrol from an overturned tanker.
Kabwe residents from far and wide descended on the accident scene like vultures with all sorts of containers including dishes without covers or leads, to decant fuel from the tanker. For a while it was a mad rush with the lucky ones siphoning as much fuel as they could and get away.
A new 4x4 Toyota Hilux also arrived at the scene with the driver trying to refuel for free before he could drive off. He did manage to refuel the twin cab but he couldn’t manage to drive off. It is not clear what happened at that very moment as the tanker with its deadly cargo blew up into a fireball engulfing everyone and everything around it and those walking away with the liquid cargo in the immediate vicinity of the tanker.
There is a sad story of two young children who sat on the culvert of their house, a few metres away, innocently watching what was going on. The children had no chance to get away when the fireball followed the flow of the fuel in the drainage running towards them.

What Caused The Deadly Kabwe Inferno?


The question is what caused the deadly inferno that killed over 30 people including a whole generation of kaponyas [touts] who had converged at the accident scene to scoop free fuel for their changanya [illegal fuel] business? There are two theories. One is that someone tried to steal the battery and in the process caused a spark, igniting the air pregnant with fumes.
The second is that a kaponya whom people called “Changwe wa ku Poleni [Changwe of Poleni] ” threw a cigarette he was smoking as he arrived at the scene on to the lethal fluid with the words “mwatapa sana [you have scooped enough]” and the whole thing just blew up. Of course it is difficult to verify the two theories as most, if not all, of the would-be witnesses perished.
At that time, Kabwe residents learnt a lesson such that a Chibuku [opaque beer] tanker overturned a few weeks later and no one touched it.

Ndola Family Wiped Out


Still on the issue of improper handling/storage of petroleum products, a family I knew in one of the townships in Ndola in the 1980s lost almost everyone when drums of petrol for sale as changanya and kept in one of the bedrooms caught fire. A family member, concluding a sale, went into the bedroom with a lit candle to decant petrol into a customer’s plastic container. The rest, as they say, is history.
But back to the Ndola-Kitwe road incident. That, clearly, was an accident—apart from the flipping of the tanker—waiting to happen. A spark or—have you ever wondered why the use of mobile phones is not allowed at filling stations—even a ringing mobile phone could spark a fire at a scene like that.
What is more is that the Ndola-Kitwe highway is a changanya haven right from Baluba up to just before ZamTan and I am sure all the traders converged on the tanker spewing liquid gold.
It is high time our law enforcement bodies, the fire brigade and safety bodies like the Mine Safety Department and the Energy Regulation Board came up with rules, regulations and serious penalties for breaking them such as when the whole citizenry descends on an overturned fuel tanker like vultures.

Friday, 17 April 2015

FREE LAURA MITI*

 ...#FreeLauraMiti


A guest post by Greenwell Nyirenda

I am appealing to the Inspector General of police and her command to release Laura Miti for she has not committed any crime. A lone protest doesn't need a permit, using common logic the term lawfully assembly which has a requirement of police permit only applies to people assembling who are more than one.
Hence the arrest of human rights activist by the Zambian Police should be condemned as it is illegal and a human rights violation. Laura, staged a lone protest against the ongoing Xenophobia targeted at African nationals by locals in South Africa. She was not attacking any one as cadres do every day in markets, streets and stations. She was not selling or dealing in illicit drugs and drinks as what is sold in Chibolya Compound. 
Laura Miti, during her lone protest at which she was arrested.

She was not fuelling violence, inciting conflict or crime as what most of our public places experience from cadres in full view of Zambian police. Yet police have never seen acting swiftly on perpetrators of crime in our society but they have wasted time, resources and tax payers money in arresting and violating an innocent woman who is sending a strong and decisive message to the world leaders, South African government in particular to act fast and curb this violence against foreign nationals. The action of Zambian police, yet again has exposed the unprofessionalism and lack of interpreting of our law to the simplest logical terms. 
It doesn't need a legal expert to crack and interpret what the public order act clearly states on who should get a permit when protesting. Zambian Police is sending an indirect message that they endorse the criminality and violence against foreigners in South Africa. This action speak volume of the non-existent of simple dialogue and championing coercion with the citizens. Free laura with no charges!!! 

Free Laura! Free Laura.

*Laura Miti is a journalist and human rights activist who stage a lone protest against the ongoing xenophopbic attacks against non-South African Africans resident in that country. Laura spends lengthy periods of time in South Africa where she works at one of the universities there. During this wave of xenophibic violence, Laura was, fortunately, back in Zambia. She could easily have been a victim like others who have lost their lives or injured in the process.