I think the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) acted malafide when it decided to switch-off power to Mzuzu City when it fully knew that the Government Spokesperson and Minister of Information, Nicholas Dausi, was in town touring establishments under his ministry.
At the time of the power outage, Dausi was on a live programme at Livingstonia Synod Radio and he had to walk out of the studios before outlining development projects being undertaken under the wise and dynamic leadership of Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.
Probably, Escom was operating on the premise that if they cannot hear it, let them feel it. And indeed, Dausi confessed that he had felt the impact of the intermittent power supply.
But malafide or not, Dausi has always told us that running a government is the finest of the fine arts: he found his way through it.
It is incomprehensible that the executive arm of government seems helpless to make Escom find a lasting solution or at least mitigate the severity of these blackouts. Our sister paper, The Daily Times, recently carried a story about how guardians at Mangochi District Hospital were taking their own power generators to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital to ensure survival of their patients. Doctors at Machinga District Hospital also agonised as they saw patients drifting away into avoidable deaths just because there was no power to run oxygen machines or operating theatres.
Even this entry that you are reading now was written under the auspices of a heavy duty generator that Times Group runs. Otherwise, we would not have this communication.
It is a great irony that the Mutharika administration is out to attract foreign investors to plough their wealth in Malawi. But which investors can risk their money here when they will not be able to produce anything?
Yes, we are talking about erecting some power sub-stations to boost power generation or to facilitate interconnection with Mozambique. Have we considered that even to erect the super structure for the sub-stations requires a lot of power? One needs to weld the steel bars and everything to have the station. That needs persistent and consistent power supply!
Currently, power goes off at 23:00 and may return the following evening. This means a whole day without production in factories. How many litres of diesel would an investor need to survive in this harsh environment? Even if 100 investors dared to use heavy duty generators, would our oil industry support such initiative?
The power outages are also affecting the quality of education in this country. Boarding schools are advising guardians to buy lamps for their wards to use during study times. This in itself snowballs into a host of challenges. Perhaps this explains why we have so many pupils and students wearing glasses at a very tender age. Then you have some ambitious Malawians who are busy upgrading their professional qualifications. Because they cannot survive outside employment, they sacrifice to study and do their assignments at night. But without electricity, these hardworking Malawians will remain trapped in endless cycle of poverty.
This reminds us of a desperate plea by management of secondary schools that Escom should ensure uninterrupted power supply to the schools during computer examinations. But Escom and the Ministry of Education refused to guarantee power supply during such critical times. This too, has to be viewed in context that the Mutharika administration has flagged science and technology as the future of the country.
With the low salaries prevalent in this country, Malawians buy their food items for the whole month. However, with no reliable source of power, most Malawians are foregoing sources of protein. All this is happening at a time the country is groaning under the weight of stunted growth and malnutrition. The few traders that innovate to stock perishables such as meat, run the risk of food poisoning their consumers.
As you read this entry, Blantyre Water Board (BWB) has joined Escom in punishing Malawians. Malawi’s commercial city has had no water supply for weeks. In high density areas, Malawians are going without water for weeks, yet they are still forced to pay huge utility bills. Meanwhile, the obstinate BWB is not communicating with its customers. The least the customers should expect is a notice of mass water supply disconnection at the end of the month with obscene reconnection fees.
But what can the executive do when these parastatals are reeking with nepotism. Management teams are stuffed with people who have ran down companies elsewhere but their only qualification is that they clap hands the loudest. Unfortunately, these are people that have positions in multiple boards and management teams, effectively blacking out development for Malawi!