Electricity woes, graft should be history in 2018


Musician-cum-business person Billy Kaunda aptly composed a song which advances the idea that, if we were asked to go back to the past, some of us would be more than willing to do so while others would flatly say no.
The song is titled ‘Kale Likanati Lizibwelera’. I know very well that Malawi comprises diverse people. Therefore, I would not be surprised to learn that some folks would want to be back to 2017.
I am pretty sure, on the other hand, that others would wish Malawi would not go back to 2017 because of severe problems which affected the nation.
I know that President Peter Mutharika and his government have, time and again, conceded that not all things were rosy in 2017.
I cannot catalogue all the problems on this page but I will highlight just a few of them, especially those that made headlines in both local and international media until the problems were no longer news because they were no longer new as people got used to them.
I should be forgiven if I sound radical to declare that 2017 has been the worst year since Malawi was created.
First, let me go to electricity supply problems. Malawi was left in darkness for the whole year because Electricity Generation Company of Malawi’s (Egenco) hydro-power generators could not generate enough power due to problems apportioned to none other than God—the low water levels in the Shire River.
We were told the water levels were low because of blah blah blah—something like environmental degradation along the Shire River blah blah blah people wantonly cutting down trees along the Shire River.
The senior management of both Egenco and Electricty Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) repeatedly updated us on the statistics of the low water levels in the Shire River which, in actual sense, did not make any sense at all to an average Malawian like me, who could not afford a power generator.
The fact of the matter is Egenco and Escom failed us, Malawians, and the fact of the matter is that the government failed us on electricity supply. I heard, on more than one occasion, Mutharika telling us, Malawians, to be patient, blaming incessant blackouts on past administrations which did not improve the electricity situation in the past 50 years.
I totally agree with him although I should be quick to say the situation started getting out of hand in the Bakili Muluzi administration – 1994 and 2004.
The situation slightly improved during the Bingu wa Mutharika administration, although it faced another challenge— acute shortage of fuel.
The power problem came back with force during the two-year administration of president Joyce Banda (She came into office accidently in 2012 after the sudden death of Bingu and she seemed clueless on everything).
Then came Peter Mutharika who got into office in 2014 with pomp and hype and promised to deal with electricity supply challenges decisively once and for all.
Three years down the line, the electricity supply situation is worse than ever before. Although inflation went down twice or so in this year and the economy slightly improved, these did not translate to good life on the situation. The improved economy has not translated to money into people’s pockets. This has not translated to disposable income for an ordinary average Malawian partly because the electricity supply problem has affected the economy.
Here in Lilongwe, where I live, we had electricity all day long on Christmas Day and the media quoted Egenco publicist, Moses Gwaza, as saying the situation would be the same for the rest of 2018 because all the machines which generate power and were down due to lack of adequate water in the Shire River were up and running because of adequate rains in the Southern Region.
Just two days after this statement, the power blackouts were back in full force.
I wondered where are the power generators which the President and Egenco said would be in the country by mid- December and would drastically reduce the current senseless load shedding.
I am not a prophet of doom but I do not see the situation improving in the near future, which includes in 2018.
In developed and civilised countries, the situation would have forced the senior management at Egenco to resign en masse as a sign that they have failed to do their job, which is to give Malawians the much-needed electricity— which is no longer a luxury in our homes and offices.
Next on the line is the issue of corruption.
Mutharika acknowledged two or three weeks ago during the handover ceremony of 100 police vehicles from the People’s Republic of China (a friend in need and a friend indeed for Malawi) that corruption is eating into the fabric of Malawi society.
He warned that the vehicles should be distributed equally to all districts and areas and anyone found selling them would face severe punishment.
Mutharika said it was sad that some public officers want to get something, through corruption, from every project the government implements.
Days later, during the silent commemoration of World Anti-Corruption Day, the US Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, warned that her country would pull out its $350 million from the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) which seeks to improve the distribution of electricity in the country.
Reason? There is high corruption in the whole project, especially during procurement of materials for the project.
I have not heard any response from the government but I hope the Mutharika administration would not let the Donald Trump administration get back the $350 million.
I know that those in the Mutharika administration have expensive generators, with fuel to the brim, generously provided by poor taxpayer who themselves cannot afford a cheap generator.
It is not only junior police officers who demand K5,000 for bail from suspects (police bail is free) but even senior government officials from directors, principal secretaries to Cabinet ministers loot huge sums of public money through corruption.
If, therefore, I were asked to go back to 2017, I would say no!

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