Zambian Engineers Cry Foul Over Unfavourable Condtions

In a country where development is key, the ideologies of frustrating engineers which have been on-going for more than a decade now seems to be going from bad to worse. If the PF government is sincere about the development agenda, then the time has come for this trend to be reversed.


I say so because for any meaningful or significant development, engineering is involved. This is the kind of development the people would like to see, road construction, buildings, electrification, housing, transportation, water and sanitation etc, you name it, engineering is involved.

What is happening at ZRL has been blown out of proportion because it involves high profile people. The issue of engineers being frustrated in Zambia is nothing new. The following are the case in point when engineers have been frustrated in Zambia.

Not long ago Engineers at Zesco were valued more than any other profession, Zesco being an engineering firm. From about 2002 to date all that changed and particularly more authority was given to HR personnel at Zesco, all personnel as long as they were in the same category would earn the same peaks i.e. a principal engineer and a principal human resource officer at Zesco would now have the same perk.


Currently, if an engineer obtains a scholarship to pursue further studies, he is stepped upon, crumbled upon etc if in the end he even manages to get the approval to get leave of absence. Only a few manage to get paid study leave, many of them end up being on unpaid study leave or are even told to resign.


I was amazed when one engineer was told that if a masters degree was required for his work, the company could have employed a person with a master degree, now this kind of reasoning simply means we have people in authoritative position who are not forward/future focused. On the other hand, HR personnel or indeed personnel from any other department who want to attain further skills are easily given paid leave and allowances in some cases. Sometimes, Zesco even pays for this education.


The end result is that Zesco currently has more educated people with MBAs, and other post graduate degrees in many departments than their core business. In a time when electricity demand is close to supply, engineering brains are more necessary than those HR brains. I know a number of good engineers in Zesco who have been driven out due to non promotions despite their hard work or frustrated by the system nepotism and/or favoritism.

At the top of most quasi government engineering organization e.g, Zesco and Zamtel, most of the talented engineers end up getting fired whenever a change of government occurs or a change of president.

I believe these jobs should not be associated with political patronage, but with skills and the ability for one to lead and create growth for the company.

I was shocked when I met one engineer and he told me his take home pay in 2006 was ZMK700, 000 when he was working for one of the many engineering firms run by foreign investors. I therefore implore EIZ to come up with Engineers\Technician minimum wage criteria as is done in many countries like South Africa. I think the Lawyers empowered by the late president Mwanawasa, have that in place through LAZ.


We now have a situation where lawyers are highly paid and every Zambian wants to be a lawyer, but if development is the PF agenda then the country should be encouraging entrepreneurship, technology, engineering and innovation rather than a bunch of people just arguing in a court room and making money. But then again I guess, this is what Zambians are good at – talking and no action, Engineering is about facts and action and less talking.


Airtel, decided in their infinite wisdom to get rid of all

engineering departments and outsource the service instead.

All of a sudden many engineers were facing a possibility of

being jobless. The end result is that airtel service is not

improving but declining with many customer complaints.

Politically, we have the legal advisor, economical advisor, media advisor to the president but we have never had any engineering advisor. With the link projects and other development projects going on, surely the president needs an engineering advisor.


At most just like we have the auditor general, solicitor general, I think it’s high time Zambia had an Engineer General. Some would argue that because engineering has so many disciplines, who should be fit for such a job, is it the civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, environmental engineers, mining engineers etc. Any engineer who has been in a management position would certainly deal with all aspects of engineering, so his\her major would not really matter, but his\her understanding of the underlying engineering principles and ethics would.

A look at China’s top political figures indicates that most of them are engineers, these engineers have transformed china. Its high time Zambia valued engineers, otherwise since most engineers are sort after, the brain drain shall continue and many Zambian Engineers will continue to be based in Australia, UK, USA, South Africa, Scandinavian countries etc.

Back to the ZRL issue, Professor Chirwa might have been wrong on two things, single sourcing his firm and asking for 25% shares just for himself, if he had asked for the whole management team upto a certain threshold it would have been welcome.


KCM offers shares to its employees upto a certain threshold so this should not be an issue but 25% to one individual is selfish. I would propose a 5 % share offer, all in all I would rather be on his side than that of the board. Some say he is a dreamer but I would rather follow a dream than those who scream impossible impossible impossible without offering alternatives, alternative alternatives!!!!!

By Frustrated Engineer

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Posted by on April 24, 2013. Filed under LATEST NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

46 Responses to Zambian Engineers Cry Foul Over Unfavourable Condtions

  1. dragster Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 9:38 am

    fantastic article..indeed engineers are overlooked and taken for granted. its like it is a profession that is respected academically but one does not get the financial equivalent(respectwise)

  2. PanAfricanist Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Not sure about this guys taking about. Is it Zesco grievance or State of Engineering in Zambia..

    • Snr Moderator Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

      zesco was just an example. HR guys get better pay yet they just attend 2 weeks workshop at a guest house. core business at zesco is engineering, therefore they shod get more recognition + money. in hospitals its medical/nursing staff, and at pensions board = its HRs/accountants etc. if am a Doctor at a mine or zesco, am a support staff despite my big qualifications!
      this guy has a point… Lawyers are the only leaders we can manage to produce as a country. lets learn to incoparate others.

  3. Geo Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Zambia is kantemba kind of country. It is a country for Lawyers and social midiocre people. What has developed other countries is engineering NOT Lawyers or the like. Engineers are the pillars of every nation. Look at Japan, their engineering sector is the best. It is only countries like Zambia where you worship people like lawyers, economists, accountants etc. The country even goes up in arms against Prof Clive. What a country! Our white fellows have already realised that they can’t do away with engineering. The best I can advise my fellow engineers is that if the country is frustrating you, it is time you move to develop other countries and I have no shame to say that. Leave the country to lawyers so that they can enjoy the money through corruption investigations. Iyee uluse ku Zambia

    • Snr Moderator Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

      am not an engineer. no intentions actually but yo contribution to the country is vital. the only to fail easy is not to try at all. just get united and fight it out. developing other countries is not the best solution. keep trying than loosing hope.
      actually apply for CEO at ZRL… it’ll be vacant soon. or be deputy to clive

    • Sango Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Boss sure what are you talking abt? In Zambia we are now talking abt equal pay for equal work. All degrees are equal by ranking. Am an ACCA holder I see no reason why I should feel inferior to an engineer or why i should feel more superior to other professions equivalent to mine. We love Chirwa bt he is a big let down. I know he has failed and mayb the engineering way of resigning is making un reasonable demands

      • Snr Moderator Reply

        April 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

        i totally DISAGREE with my brother! some displines are too weak to be compared to others. most of these things are purely obtained whilst in the comfort of yo own house. eg Masters in Public health is very very cheap compared to surgery. lets accept facts.
        am not saying clive was right by wanting 25% shares. that was wrong

      • Rupiah Reply

        April 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Your are ACCA holder and working for a very small company my brother that makes a profit of $1,000.

        Try working in he mines and if you are lucky to see how much the expatriates get.

      • Real Engine Reply

        April 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

        Ba Sango, apapena muleyibikilishakofye…Degrees/Discliplines differ and u cant say ACCA or whatever you call it will be the same with another degree. Additionally, depending on which organisation one is working in, some degrees will be more vital and will carry more duties leading to generating that companies income such that paying them the same way is a real falacy that has brought alot of detriment to our country…for Zesco how can HR and Electrical Engineer get the same? amalaiti yalocha! and thats what makes money in such a company. ilyashi litali! but fyalipusana sana tafilingana Ninsele isho…ask/hear it from countries that are going somewhere. like Germany, USA, UK, Japan, Canada Australia etc…thats when you realise that degrees are not the same! “others are more equal than others” nangu mubafyenge ama engineers, that is a fact and it will ever be so!

      • Real Engine Reply

        April 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        forgot to say equal pay for equal work is not possible! hw can digging copper and balancing a balance sheet be equal work, come on man! oh let alone commissioning a $4m piece of electrical equipment and filing HR papers? mulebako honest, nolo ku defender utuma paper ati ACCA! comeon.

    • Dimma Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

      He wants 25% ownership, haven’t you read? This is besides the hefty salary peck and freesomes! This is a sign of total greed! I say, let him go back.

  4. m j Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 9:47 am

    the problem we have in zambia is white colour jobs are rated highly and no respect is given to an engineer get to car to a garrage the person to fix it is either mechanic,auto electrician,panel beater ,a fitter or a welder now wen u look at how much dirty that car brings and how that guy fixing yo car suffer and u ask him him how much he will be paid very little thats more reason they cheat to make more .there was one stingy officer wo was made to buy his own startermotor coz he doesnt pay well to pipo wo do repairs to his car.thanks am fist to comment .repect an engineer.

  5. Fodya Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Do we really have engineers in Zambia or mere technicians parading with engineering degrees. Show us your mantle and respect will be earned and not sought.

  6. economist! Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Wages are determined by market forces of demand for labor my friends. Right now the demand for Human Resource and other business courses is high hence the high wage rates! Imposing of minimum wage on engineers will lead to the few engineers left in employment to lose their jobs becous the dmand for engineers is very low in our country! I’d advise u to b self reliant and find atha means of making money ratha than waiting for the government to do somthing for u!

    • Snr Moderator Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 10:56 am

      that is typical for a lazy nation! how do all of us shit in offices looking at files for who do fire or promote!

  7. Geo Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

    @Fodya, you the culprits like you who have sunk the country like Zambia into the abyss. South Africa alone has about 800 highly qualified Zambians doing extremely very well. I have personally lived in SA and I know what I am talking about. Hundreds of Engineers have left for UK and three quarters of them have sworn never to come back to Zambia. So what enginners do you expect to see after nearly 80% of them have left to develop other countries? So the only people left in Zambia are social scientists who cannot be appreciated in other countries. So what do they do in Zambia, plunder the resources through investigations, corruption, etc. The whole nation is about social rhetorics and major NO infrustructure development. Not even a classic or world class building to talk about in Zambia. People are just busy trying to insult each other through the electronic media such as Tumfweko, ZWD, LT. Lazy chaps. Before the money goes to the actual projects, the money is finished thru board meetings, lawyers taking what is due to them etc and by the time it is reaching the intended purpose no maoney is left for the engineers and you expect engineers to stay and get peanuts. You Zambians joke!

  8. ENG Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

    @Economist, you are wrong, when there is demand for Human Resource, that directly means that there is plenty of demand for other fields as well. If there is demand for Human Resource, then what are they Human Resourcing for? For themselves? Lets be serious in Zambia. I for will never come back to Zambia. I get my salary in the range of K80m to K100m/month while the entire nation cries over K140m Prof Clive is getting. When I come back I start getting K1m. What a joke! Even starting up a business in Zambia as an Engineer is hustle. Before you have a sigh of relief, ZRA is on you millking you all the little profit. I am not against paying tax, but there should be an incentive for local engineers who wants to start up a business to give them a relief period like they do for foreigners. As thing stands right now, Zambia will remain a kantemba type of Nation. @Fodya, you go at UNZA and see the projects students initiates and there is no one to fund them. Sad for Zambia

  9. Mpoh Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Pipo wo dnt appreciate engineers dnt knw anythn about development and innovation!indeed look at china,ts here today bcoz of ts realisation of science and technology’importance to a country!engineers r innovators whether u like t or nt and once ths country gives dat platform of being appreciated,believe me t wil be a beta place fo atleast everyone.u cn neva be best until u r given an opportunity to bring da best out of u! try engineers.

  10. BEAMS 2000 Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:21 am



    • Snr Moderator Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

      so bring that talent home though its not easy to be recognised but fight hard!

  11. EKK Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:36 am

    But that level of greediness.. Engineers are the ones to blame..

  12. Senior Engineer RTD Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

    With the current trend of executing engineering projects in Zambia, Zambia does not need engineers. Projects are being executed on an EPC basis i.e. Engineer, Procure and Construct. In the past engineers designed, prepared bill of quantities and tender documents for projects so that contractors bid for them and at the end one contractor was selected to execute the works. But now you just select one firm to do the engineering, procurement and construction so that he hands to the owner the completed project, i.e hands over the key to “turn” the projects, turnkey. Alternatively he builds the project and transfers it to the owners when he has recouped his money. In both instances local engineers are not being used.

  13. Rupiah Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Am a zambian engineer working outside the country. I worked in Zambian for 5 years before leaving and was getting less than US$1,000 (around KR4,600).

    Then i got a job outside the country and my starting salary was US$ 7,000 (KR35,000).

    The question is why cant i be paid a similar salary in Zambia? Is it that Zambia hasnt got this money? This money is there along with greedy.

  14. truthful Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    brilliant article.
    Engineers are being manipulated espeaially at companies like KCM where their take home is less than 8000. God help us.

  15. kc Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    True. Hw do u pay more to a hr personnel than an engineer @ zesco? What wud happen if all engineers quit and only talkative hr chaps remained? Am not educated bt i get hurt at how useless professions like lawyers are paid more than the thinkers. Zambia wont develop.

  16. james Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    This is extremely true,EIZ should take this article seriously ,bravo my brother for bringing up these issues to light.Infact engineering is not a simple proffesssion it is the toughest on can ever find no dull person can ever do it as we see in in other proffessions.It is a shame to this country to have engineers lowly paid,and you expect to develop.Just for you to this a little bit,everything that other fields use an engineer is behind it.The computers all of you are using in field an engineer is behind it,You are pruod with posh cars an engineer is behind it,even the chair you are swinging on in that office with air con an en engineer made that,why should they they paid peanuts shame.Im so disappointed to learn that Zesco which is Engineering based engineers get less than HR Personnel what a shame.EIZ wake up this is terrible and a big shame.

  17. Kibinda waba Kabwa Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Its a good article, one that reflects most of our concern for Zambia. The solusion, though, lies with us. The EIZ and the SIZ do not do enough to sensitise government on the need for engineers. For example where is EIZ and SIZ when the budget has been released? Do they provide alternative solutions to government? Have they counter offered options on transport networks, water and sewer reticulation systems? We all wait and wait and keep waiting that someone will realise our importance. No fckn chance lads; we need to wake up. These EIZ people do not want to allow suggestions like these, no CPD programs that are meant to sensitise the engineering knowledge to Zambians. We need to earn the respect; not just demand it. Elo those that are working on government government contracts are a serious let down. You find poor quality work, but the guy is driving a Range Rover; surely, do you expect a nation to respect your profession when they can visibly see the mediocrity (in isolated incidences i must hasten to say)?

    • Katunga Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Well put bro well put. I liek the point about us taking it upon ourselves to make ourselves necesary and be noticed

  18. Kibinda waba Kabwa Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    If it was a lawyer being sstracised, the Law Association of Zambia could have commented; will the EIZ comment on Chirwa? Why didnt the SIZ comment on his plans for the railway systems in Zambia? For those of you wondering why am mentioning the Surveyors Institute of Zambia (its a branch that holds surveyors and Cost engineers (or Quantity surveyors).

    • Real Engine Reply

      April 25, 2013 at 1:31 am

      saluveya!! oooh, I was wondering. Thnx fo educating me…

  19. Mupeta Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    In all professions, there are quacks, pretenders and real professionals. A true engineer cannot allow himself to be paid peanuts. move on and market yourself. Some people are technicains pretending to be Engineers. You can go through UNZA and come out empty.

  20. Rasta wise Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thats an engineer for you,oways complains from the teraces,jst get organised. Gate your men in the political field,and make some serious governance influence. Problem is you cant even challenge your EIZ head on.Constitutional laywers & criminal laws will oways be at play,yes its a bitter pill to swallow,so be it. Piece of advise,the moment you realise tht these professionals(thus the term co-exist God will reward you. You sick,he doesnt giv u inembo,you’re implicated,mate interprates implications,you look for investment wth highest returns,mate,just bring your money..

    • GEO Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      @Rasta wise thats why engineers leave the country bcoz your thinking: talking is the only of working and amasing great wealth. I am glad that while engineers in Zambia are not appreciated, elsewhere in the world they are highly paid and more respected than a lawyer. So ba Rasta wise, for you to make money, you need to be in politics. Thats why Zambia is always number last in everything. Lawyers makes laws to suit their profession and thats where the sad story starts. A lawyer may defend successfully a thief. If I were to make laws I would ensure that if a client looses a case, the lawyer has equally lost will be heavily fined for defending a thief.

  21. Moscow Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I agree with the author of the zambia engineers are not respected. This is why Zambia can’t develop.Most zambians now prefer doing accounts and business studies.I’m an IT specialist but feel bad working in zambia.we get below 7million.ACCA and CIMA chaps get more than 25million for jst reconciling data.Imwe mwe Zambia will never develop as long as IT specialist and other Engineers are left out.always expect corruption in da country when there is no innovation.

  22. Katunga Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting point made here. Indeed its surprising how a country in need of swift development can relegate engineers to the bottom of the professional ladder.For me the Clive Chirwa saga has just helped highlight the issues engineers in Zambia face. While people are busy slating him for the amount of money he is getting, no one has issues with emplyment of foreign engineers, many less learned and experienced than him but getsack loads of cash. It time to work upand appreciate our own.

  23. Ounce Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    @Fodya..The problem is you are not exposed.For your information,Samsung’s best programers are Zambian engineers.

  24. Wake me up Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    This is what happens when you have no passion but get in a field with the hope of getting rich and prestige. Passion comes first, if you love what you do, you wont be looking on your neighbors payslip every now and then. I agree that engineering plays an important role in the development process but other fields are equally important in the process as well. Your understanding of what has led to the development of China or let me say most developed countries is limited and therefore takes away from your argument. Let us learn to appreciate other fields as well because like the body even toes and fingers have their functions. I have worked outside Zambia for sometime and one thing i have noticed here is that people value other peoples occupations. In Zambia you want people to shiver when you enter the room ati ba engineer baisa or ba doctor baisa that’s total BS, give a teacher, a nurse, a secretary, a cleaner etc a reasonable pay and set your policies and priorities right to take advantage of the large labor force and we’ll develop not that engineering is what leads to development and therefore engs should be paid or shown more respect. It matters less the core business of the establishment all workers are there serve and if money becomes the motivating factor for your going to work you will forever be disappointed, get up because engineering is what breath and love doing and maybe, just maybe we will even see some inventions.

  25. zimandola2 Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    @ Sango since when did ACCA become a degree? A degree my friend is a degree. ACCA would be called a degree if it were one. I have seen people Who use to be on the bottom of my class in secondary scool go to accounts schools and get their ACCA. There are no such characters in the University and they can never survive the environment. I remember looking at a chart released by TEVETA recently in one of the newspapers in which they showed the eqivalent qualifications of most UK qualifications in zambia. Take a look at that chart or ask for one from TEVETA. You will realise that ACCA is nowhere near any degree. ACCA will never be a degee because it is just one of those programs that people who have failed to make it to any University pursue with the exception of those that pursue it after obtaining a degree just as a medical doctor may go and study some little program about nutrition for HIV patients. You can never call something like that a degree.

  26. Candidate Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Forget about EIZ. EIZ can never comment on matters of national interest especially now that the current President of EIZ is a puppet of Michael Chilufya Sata or is it Satana? He has been given a good job by state house and he can never say anything negative lest he annoys the President. EIZ has for a long time ignored calls for the introduction of a minimun wage for each field of Engineering and level of qualification.

  27. brasho Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    this is a very sober-minded article that deserves praises. Well written bwana Frustrated Engineer.

    I want to add that the President should have a Science and Technology Special Assisstant to cover all science and all instead of Engineering

  28. Observer Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Just to add to this topic. The time I lived in Zambia, I noticed Zesco was employing mainly electrical engineers and ignoring other disciplines. Power generation is 80% mechanical engineering. There is also a lot of civil engineering.

    The point I am making is that it seems in Zambia certain proffesions want to ‘own’ a company once they establish themselves.

    In the mines in ZCCM, it was a similar picture. Only if you are a mining engineer, geologist or metallurgist could you rise to GM or executive.
    In other countries you do not find such restrictions and a lot depends upon how you apply yourself as an individual.I know a radio technician who is a power station manager in South Africa.

    A good thing about engineers is that you can use them to do other work like accounts, law, HR and other non technical work. You can not use the others in a similar fashion, because a mature man can seldom study engineering in his 40s.

    So what I am saying is that there is a serious problem how skills are managed in the country and I do not see any solution soon

  29. Fodya Reply

    April 25, 2013 at 12:21 am

    But I am told in Zambia, Engineers work as fitters and bricklayers, no offence. If you need designs South African are called in. Ukamba chani iwe

  30. Reveal! Reply

    April 25, 2013 at 8:48 am

    True people in engineering profession are not rewarded as the case may be in industrialized nations.
    In Zambia most rewarded professions are HR,Accountants and lawyers.
    In 1982,we went on strike on the mines demanding equal pay for equal work.All technicians and Artisans downed tools.The mine then NCCM and RCM did adjust some wages but the expatriates were getting more after added allowances.Some goes with the Parastatal companies.Engieers in Zambia need to be recognised and considerd for the nation to develop.

  31. lukundo Reply

    April 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Boss thumbs-up for the article. We have all the ideas to invent but no support. We really need to work together in this matter as engineers and technicians.

  32. Ounce Reply

    April 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

    It really makes my heart bleed,seeing how much effort one has to put in to be admmitted to an engineering faculty,and later on graduate as an engineer.Seeing the gravity,risky and amount of work pressure an engineer contains.To say but the truth,if someone graduates as an engineer,then failure is not part of their vocabularly,collegues you know what am talking about.Iam tempeted to say that the labs and projects at University are far much difficult than projects in industry,in alot of sense ranging from:Maturity,understanding,financing the list is endless.
    Talking about partion for our career,this is the more reason why I have taken my precious time to contribute to this SWEET article.We are not demanding respect as some people may say,all we are saying is take keen interest in engineering,then you will appreciate what we do and possibly give us what we deserve.

  33. dr dre Reply

    April 28, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Ati nalikwata ACCA, hahahahahaha……..ubukopo ama courses ya 6 months yaba zoona nipa zed

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