PRESIDENT HICHILEMA SAYS ZAMBIA AND ZIMBABWE NEED A "FAMILY CONVERSATION" OVER LAKE KARIBA
President Hakainde Hichilema says Zambia and Zimbabwe need to meet in a private "family conversation" to strengthen the utilization and management of Lake Kariba waters for power generation to ensure the two countries benefit equitably. The Lake Kariba is managed by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) on behalf of the two countries and its principal clients are Zambia’s state power utility ZESCO on the north and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) on the south. Zambia and Zimbabwe equally and jointly own and manage the ZRA established in 1987 by parallel legislation in the two countries to replace the Central African Power Company which previously managed the lake. ZESCO runs its Kariba North Bank Power Station with an installed capacity of 1, 080-megawatts while ZESA’s Kariba South Power Station has an installed capacity of 1, 050-megawatts. Annually, ZRA allocates ZESCO and ZESA equal allocations of water for power generation at their respective power stations. Both countries are currently experiencing desperate period of load shedding following the drop-in water levels in key reservoirs due to the negative effects of climate change. According to ZRA, ZESCO followed the 2022 programme on water usage for power generation, but Zimbabwe's ZESA abstracted more than its allocation, thereby starving ZESCO of its allocation, resulting in worsening the current load shedding. On his tour of the Lake Kariba in Siavonga to appreciate the current load shedding in Zambia, President Hichilema said there is need to strengthen the authority of ZRA to ensure both ZESCO and ZESA operate within their allocated framework for water usage. “Maybe it is time that we review these governance documents so that we can manage this asset (Lake Kariba) better…we need to engage in a formal meeting – Zambia and Zimbabwe so that we can have a family conversation mainly to work together. We deliver stronger economies in Zambia and Zimbabwe, we make our people happy on both sides of the river,” President Hichilema said. The President regretted that one of the two utilities engaged in “excessive abstraction” of water to the disadvantage of the other. “Our number one issue is to button the omissions of the past and see how we can do better going forward,” he said, adding that he planned to engage his counterpart Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on strengthening the governance rules for ZRA. President Hichilema said that there is need to expedite repair works to the plunge pool at Lake Kariba to ensure the structural integrity of the over 60-year old dam wall is restored. The reshaping of Kariba Dam plunge pool which is wholly funded by the European Union through a 72 million euro grant to Zambia is expected to be completed in 2025.