Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

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By Shapi Shacinda 

LUSAKA, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Zambia has cut by 16 percent the 540 megawatts power supplied to its copper mines after state utility Zesco rationed power following the shutdown of a major transmission line for repairs due to last one month. 

The Copperbelt Energy Company (CEC), the sole distributor of power to the mines, said it had reduced electricity supply at the request of Zesco, which expects to complete the repairs by the second week of December. 

At the same time, Zambia said it plans to upgrade transmission lines to source more power from the Democratic Republic of Congo, CEC chairman Hanson Sindowe said on Wednesday. 

His firm, which purchases power from Zesco for distribution to the mines, reduced supply despite rising power demand at the country’s two major mines, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) and Mopani Copper Mines. 

“We have reduced by 16 percent the amount of power to the mines and that is quite a lot, especially at a time when demand is rising. We have normally been supplying the mines with 540 megawatts,” Sindowe told Reuters. 

KCM is a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc (VED.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) while Mopani Copper Mines is a joint venture of Swiss firm Glencore International AG [GLEN.UL] and Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). 

Last month KCM launched a major copper smelter with annual processing capacity of 300,000 tonnes. 

An energy ministry official said that the mines have been forced to scale down operations and to switch off non-essential equipment to ease power shortages. 

“This will surely have a negative effect on copper production this year,” he said on condition of anonymity. 

Sindowe said the CEC had partnered with the Congolese state power utility Snel to upgrade an existing transmission line to carry 500 megawatts of power from Congo to the Zambian mines, more than double the 210 megawatts it usually carries. 

“The line will cover about 130 kilometres and CEC will spend $15 million to construct (the extension line) on the Zambian side, while Snel will do the same inside the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Sindowe said. 

He also said CEC and Glencore had agreed to launch a joint bid to invest in the Kafue Gorge Lower power project, estimated by the government to cost $1.5 billion and which would generate over 750 megawatts of power. 

Construction will start in January 2009, he said. 

The International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s lending arm, has engaged contractors to conduct a feasibility study which is expected to end in mid-2009, following which the government will launch international tenders. 

(Reporting by Shapi Shacinda +260 97 784 3609/+260 95 577 9523, Editing by Peter Blackburn) 

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THE Government has said that media houses in the country have failed to regulate themselves and this had prompted the calls from various stakeholders for statutory regulation.

Chief Government spokesperson, Ronnie Shikapwasha said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the failure by the media to regulate themselves was blatantly exhibited in the period running to the October 30 presidential election.

He challenged the Media Council of Zambia (MECOZ), Press Association of Zambia (PAZA), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ), among others, to prove that the media could regulate themselves.

Recently, members of Parliament (MPs) and the Government called for statutory regulation of the media following what they termed as unprofessional reporting in the period of campaigning for the October 30 polls.

During the campaign period, Lieutenant-General Shikapwasha said some sections of the media openly insulted some presidential candidates under the pretext of freedom of the Press.

Gen Shikapwasha, who is Information and Broadcasting Services minister, said even some MPs who were in support of self-regulation of the media had now changed their mind after noticing the unprofessional reporting by some media houses.

“Even some people that supported self-regulation of the media can no longer do that because in the last few months, some media organisations have shown that they cannot regulate themselves. When you go to such extents, it clearly shows that there is need for regulation,” Gen Shikapwasha said.

As a result of the failure by the media to prove that they could regulate themselves, he said, the Government was left with no option but to seek statutory regulation.

On Monday, media bodies rejected calls by the Government for statutory regulation, saying the decision was misplaced and made out of emotions.

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LUSAKA, 26 November 2008 (IRIN) – Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is jeopardising a voluntary repatriation programme for Congolese refugees in neighbouring Zambia, a senior UN refugee agency (UNHCR) official has said.”Just before the fighting erupted in the [eastern] Kivu region [of DRC], the number of refugees registering for voluntary repatriation in the Mwange and Kala camps [in northern Zambia] had shown a significant increase. But now, very few are coming forward to register, and even some of those who register are opting out at the last minute,” said James Lynch, the UNHCR [UN refugee agency] country director in Zambia.”Most of the refugees are able to obtain information on what is happening in the DRC through shortwave radios and other sources. What they glean, they share with other refugees in the camps.”

UNHCR has been repatriating Congolese refugees, mostly to Katanga Province in southern DRC, since 2007. A total of 7,323 were repatriated in 2007 and some 9,001 returned this year; a further 11,572 refugees were expected to repatriate before the end of 2008.

When clashes broke out recently in DRC between rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda and government forces, UNHCR said the fighting would not affect the repatriation programme, as Katanga was some distance from the conflict zone.

“But [now] the refugees are citing fear of the conflict spreading from eastern Congo to other areas as the reason for not registering for voluntary repatriation … since reports of the resumption of the armed conflict in eastern Congo began to come in, numbers [of refugees willing to repatriate] have gone down,” Lynch said.

Zambia is home to some 45,253 Congolese refugees; of these, 28,571 reside in camps and settlements, 1,682 in urban areas, and an estimated 15,000 are self-settled.

A fluid situation

Ronnie Shikapwasha, Zambia’s chief government spokesperson, this week announced that the country was preparing for a major influx of refugees from its giant northern neighbour.

“Zambia is ready to welcome refugees from DRC. It is a fluid situation; naturally, it will affect Zambia. A number of refugees will start trickling to Zambia and we will have to work out a situation where the United Nations, under the UNHCR, should be able to help looking after the refugees,” Shikapwasha told the local media.

A possible new influx would exert even more pressure on the UNHCR, already struggling after the UN World Food Programme announced that a funding shortfall was forcing it to cut feeding programmes to vulnerable refugees.

Zambia also hosts thousands of asylum seekers from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.




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