Newsletter (June 4, 2009)

Dear all, There is nothing particularly worth mentioning in TCCA these past weeks, so perhaps we will tell you a bit of what is happening in Ndola (or Zambia) right now.

We suddenly experienced several days of electricity load shedding this week.  After six months of more or less constant power supply, this came as a big surprise and we thought we might be going back to the load shedding days.  As it turned out, first through grapevine and then from the newspapers that two units in the biggest generating plant have to be shut down because weeds are preventing water flowing into the units.  How this was allowed to happen is beyond most people’s thinking.  To make things worse, two units in the second largest plant developed problems and have had to be shut down as well.  So the whole country is thrown into long periods of load shedding and everyone complains.

It seems that things are not too bad in Ndola and the Copperbelt Province, probably because some of the mines are still in operation and they always have priority in electricity supply.  So we benefit from that and do not have too many blackouts.  Other parts of Zambia, including Lusaka, seem to be badly affected.  Zambia has to import part of the electricity shortfall from South Africa and Namibia and this is very expensive, so the power company is trying its best to clear the weeds but by this morning, according to the newspapers, the problem has still not been resolved.  Hopefully things will get back to normal very soon.

Many government employees are on strike at the moment.  The teachers are on strike and so most schools are closed.  Most students are now staying at home doing nothing and, since this is an indefinite strike, no one knows when the schools will reopen.  It could be weeks, or could last a whole term.  The nurses are also on strike, so all government hospitals and clinics have more or less come to a standstill.

The health sector is also facing another huge problem right now.  The ACC (Anti Corruption Commission, not Accident Compensation!) recently uncovered a big corruption scam and a huge amount of money has gone missing.  Because of that the Swedish and Dutch governments decided to withhold their health aid to Zambia.  This affects all the hospitals and even Mukinge Hospital (the Mission hospital  closely related to SIM) has not received any grant from the government so things look very bleak in the health sector right now.

Most employees get their salary at the end of the month.  So during the first few days of the month, the town is full of people and everyone that has money will be in the shops to buy things.  The bank is full of people and the money machine has very long queues.  This is the time to avoid going to the bank or to Shoprite, the big supermarket where everyone goes.

Sometimes we can’t avoid it and we have to go there to buy things and if this is the case we are prepared to spend a very long time queuing at the checkout.  The queuing is always chaotic, it is always long and sometimes it is very difficult to find the end of the queue.  The whole process is quite inefficient.  After scanning the goods the cashier has to put everything into plastic bags, sometimes the customers help, or another staff member will come to help, otherwise she has to do it alone.

Then comes payment.  There is no Eftpos in Zambia, so everyone pays cash.  Now we have 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000 Kwacha notes and most people will pay more than 50000 Kwachas.  Many people will pay a few hundred thousand Kwachas.  No one gives the exact amount and there is always change involved.  The cashier always has a shortage of 1000 and 5000 Kwacha notes, so has to use a large number of 500 Kwacha notes to make up.  They will count the money many times to make sure the change is correct.  This takes time.

Then there is another problem. At pay day, husband will give a sum of money to wife.  So wife brings this to Shoprite.  There is always more to buy than one can afford.  So the strategy is to load many things in the trolley and then at the checkout, she takes out items one by one and sees how much they all add up to.  She only stops when the amount is more or less equal to what they have.  So the process is very slow.

Another interesting thing about Shoprite is that apparently the price of some goods is more expensive in these few days than the rest of the month when it is not as busy and crowded.  So TCCA pays the student allowances and administrative staff at the middle of the month.

We continue to pray for the church members who are seriously ill and may our Lord comfort them so that they may experience His grace and mercy, and that He is near to them.  With Christian love.

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