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TAKE OVER CEC, Energy expert expresses concern over the high court ruling

 BY AARON CHIYANZO

Government should consider compulsory acquisition of CEC or allow either ZCCM-IH or ZESCO increase shareholding to get control of the power company to secure national interests, an energy expert has said.

Tampering with electricity supply especially KCM which had the wettest mines in the world would cause economic disaster that would impact the national economy adversely including loss of jobs.

Mr Johnstone Chikwanda said yesterday, Government had several options to consider following the quahing of the declaration OF CEC transmission lines as common carriers.

Mr Chikwanda was reacting to a  High Court ruling  quashing  Minister of Energy Mathew Nkhuwa ‘s decision to declare Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC)’s  transmission and distribution lines as a common carrier.

Mr Chikwanda explained that ZESCO impasse to protect public interest, national security and avert possible economic sabotage had power to mines been disconnected.

Mr Chikwanda said mines such as KCM were a captive client who had no possible options where to get electricity from if government did not intervene.

He said the Copperbelt would have been ruined.

Judge Elita Mwikisa in her judgement dated February 26, 2021 said that the Minister’s decisions were illegal and tainted with procedural impropriety.

The judge however said that she did not find evidence of bad faith or improper motives in Mr Nkhuwa’s  actions due to the fact that there was an impending crisis looming that would have led Konkola Copper Mines  not to have power supply as submitted by the State, especially that section 13 (d) of the agreement  emphasises the need of uninterrupted power supply to the Mine and the giving of 14 days’ notice.

Ms justice Mwikisa said KCM had the obligation to pay its debt to CEC failure to which CEC had the right to discontinue power supply to KCM.

Mr Chikwanda however  supported the minister’s  action and said the matter was a public interest and national security issue.

He said If Government did not intervene, national security would have been compromised and “economic sabotage” would have taken place by switching off the wettest mine in Africa.

Mr Chikwanda said Zesco and CEC had reached a dead end, they could not agree and this was a regulated industry so someone had to step in to protect public interest whose implications were too much.

“It’s not a vegetable market. All regulated markets have interventions if what is at stake is too much. But parties must still find room to discuss and find an independent arbiter to interrogate whether the tariff which  h ERB set for CEC was fair or what CEC was demanding was international best practice.

CEC has cited the Attorney General and the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) in the matter in which it was seeking judicial review challenging the decision by the Minister to declare its transmission and distribution lines as common carrier to be used on the terms and conditions determined by ERB.

CEC also challenged the decision by ERB which set the wheeling tariff before the parties negotiate terms of use.

CEC challenged Mr Nkhuwa and ERB’s position on grounds that it is illegal, procedurally improper and the motive is in bad faith.

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