How water users concept flopped in Blantyre

MANYAMBA—We are struggling with debts

By Isaac Salima:

Established to help in the provision of clean and affordable water, water kiosks being managed by Water Users Associations (Wua) are failing to achieve their intended purpose as community members continue struggling to access the precious commodity, Malawi News has established.

In 2010, the Malawi government introduced Wuas, tasking members of the community with the management of water kiosks which used to be run by Scheme Management Committees on voluntary basis.


According to guidelines for establishments of Wuas, the government wanted to ensure that goals and national strategies such as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and goals set in Millennium Development Goals were met not only in numbers but also in terms of continued access to water by the present generation and generations to come.

However, we have established that this may remain a dream as most of the Wuas continue to struggle, with over 50 percent of the water kiosks closed and the remaining ones not functioning properly.

Through our visits to some of the associations in Blantyre, we have also learnt that settlement of outstanding debts to the water board have paralysed most of the Wuas.


Blantyre City has 11 Wuas who, according to our findings, continue to face similar challenges. Financial mismanagement and huge debts to Blantyre Water Board (BWB) which were accumulated by previous administrators have hit the associations hard, such that they are struggling to pay staff members.

Officials say the introduction of prepaid metering system has even worsened the situation for the Wuas as more money is spent in offsetting bills.

For instance, the current Bangwe Wua inherited a K7 million outstanding bill from previous administration and has since managed to pay back K5 million.

According to Bangwe- Mpingwe Wua chairperson Shadrick Manyamba, the introduction of 50 percent debt payment rate policy by BWB has hit them badly.

“BWB deducts 50 percent of any prepaid purchase of volumes of water. There is also 16.5 percent of VAT (Value Added Tax) and 10 percent metre rental fee so if you do your arithmetic you find out that after all these deductions, we remain with about 26 percent volume of water to sell in a month which is not viable,” Manyamba said.

He lamented that they have been struggling to pay kiosk attendants.

“We owe them salary arrears, with others reaching up to almost two years. We are not collecting enough funds to sustain the schemes,” he said.

Chairperson of Soche- Misesa Wua said at the time they came in, they found a K20 million bill and they have reduced it to about K4 million.

But their effort to pay up the bill is at the expense of salaries for their staff.

“We owe our employees salaries for several months. This is demotivating on their part because they are not getting anything. In the end, it is the association that suffers. Our daily sales are affected because most of the attendants do not see the need to be coming to work,” he said.

Chairperson of a disciplinary committee for a Blantyre Peri Urban Waters Association Umbrella Body, Harry Chanamuna, asked BWB to consider reducing the debt repayment rate so that they should be able to meet other costs.

He also urged the board to stop some illegal water sellers.

“Nowadays, every Jim and Jack wants to sell water. These are people who have water supply in their homes and their water is deemed for domestic use not for resale,” he said.

Soche Wua, with 72 kiosks, has only about 35 kiosks operating. With the scheme meant to help communities to access clean water at a cheaper price, the purpose is being defeated as lack of it continues prompting people to look for water from unsafe sources.

BWB spokesperson Evelyn Khonje told Malawi News that the board is expected to carry out audit of all Wuas.

“This will help us to determine if the problem is the 50 percent rate of reduction of arrears or not. We hear of some financial mismanagement issues in some Wuas so we will also have to find out on this,” she said.

Director of Water Supply and Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture Emma Mbalame also said they will conduct an assessment of the performances of the Wuas since their establishments.

“Their performance has indeed not been satisfactory. So, the assessment will give us an insight on how to best manage them,” she said.

Mbalame further said that financial mismanagement coupled with lack of capacity of those managing them are some of the challenges affecting the Wuas’ operations.

There have also been allegations that political interference has contributed to the malfunctioning of what could have been a superb project as administrators were selected on political backgrounds. Without laid down guidelines this led to abuse of funds meant to sustain the scheme.

Malawi implemented a piped water supply and sanitation services project in market centres and rural areas with support from bilateral and multilateral cooperating partners such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Union.

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