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Let us safeguard utility suppliers’ equipment

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By Mike Burton Kambewa

For far too long, Malawians have been complaining about poor service delivery in the country.

This ranges from electricity to water supply, areas that are crucial to national development efforts.

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Without reliable electricity, industry players grope in the dark. They, actually, resort to using expensive sources of power, notably generators.

Generators, by their very nature, use fuel, which is expensive as, for the commodity to get into Malawi, a lot of money goes into transport, clearing and other logistics. Long-term use of generators can be disastrous to the Malawi economy, as industry players will be at the mercy of international market forces, exposing them to price volatility devises.

Another important area is that of water supply. Water, as they say, is life. That is why it is one of the areas listed among Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

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Therefore, compromised supply of the commodity puts millions of lives at risk. That is why those entrusted with the responsibility of giving Malawians potable water should do their best to ensure that the water is not contaminated in any way.

As service providers learned the hard way from the Lilongwe water contamination case, when service providers are made to pay huge sums of money over compromised service, funds that would have gone to other areas of development go into injured consumers’ pockets— meaning that it is all people, and not just the concerned utility bodies, that suffer.

To make matters worse, our service providers, notably water boards, have been asking for bailout packages from the government, meaning that, somewhere, there are cash flow problems.

Surely, all Malawians need to come together in safeguarding properties of our utility suppliers so that we can continue to enjoy uninterrupted and quality services.

I am, therefore, concerned with reports of vandalism of property belonging to water boards and the utility power supplier.

Just recently, the courts meted out sentences on people who were accused of vandalising Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) property.

A case in point is Ntcheu District, where the First Grade Magistrate Court slapped a convict with a K500,000 fine or, in default, a four-year jail term for vandalising electric cables in the district.

When First Grade Magistrate Chimdima Phiri fined the suspect, who was accused of contravening provisions of sections 45(2)(d) of the Electricity Act and 278 of the Penal Code, I felt sad for people that must have been left in the dark after the equipment was tampered with.

The development came after, two weeks before, the Mzuzu Magistrates’ Court sentenced two men to 18 years imprisonment without the option of a fine for vandalising Escom cables in the city.

It came on the back of recent cases of theft of equipment belonging to the corporation. Some of the sought after items include cables, towers, earth mats and transformers, which reportedly cost Escom K1 billion to replace in the 2019- 20 financial year.

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