It is always a sad day when a public service provider starts patting its own back for providing a service it was established to provide. I mean, how would it look if a hospital put out a press release just to celebrate that it is able to treat patients?
Last week, some people at the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) discovered that it had been 40 days since the country had experienced a blackout last. These officials felt so giddy with this “new reality” that they could not contain themselves. They decided to pen a press release to express their delight.
It seems to me that folks at Escom still do not realise that the principal reason the company exists is to supply electricity. Probably this could explain why when they do not supply power to residents and industries they find it normal.
And have people at Escom forgotten that they supply power generated by water from the Shire River and now we are at the height of the rainy season? Meaning that water is in abundance in the river, therefore enough generation of power and sustained supply of electricity in the country.
It would have been less weird if this celebratory press release was released in the months between August and November when it is the driest in Malawi and the Shire River runs low on water. When ESCOM is able to supply power without blackouts in these dry months then a pat on the back would make some sense.
Yes, they say it is important to celebrate the small victories but for a company that benefits from taxpayers’ kwachas to make sure there is electricity in homes and companies, but celebrating just a month and ten days of an uninterrupted power supply is an insult to the nation.
I believe Escom needs to focus more on ensuring that the irritating blackouts do not return. They need to concentrate on expanding the electricity supply to rural areas. I still find it insane that in 2020 only 11 percent of Malawi’s population has access to electricity. How about releasing a statement to celebrate when over 50 percent of Malawi can access electricity.
Instead of trying to convince us that finally Escom has turned the corner and it can keep us powered all day long, why not put that effort into rooting out the endemic corruption that has plagued the institution for years. It is still taking Malawians forever to get connected to electricity when an application is made without bribing anyone.
Escom should stop taking Malawians for granted. One month and ten days of no blackout is no cause for celebration. It is, however, a cause for concern that a company of Escom’s stature finds this “achievement” worth making noise for.
If, as a company, Escom does not move away from celebrating mediocrity, we cannot hope that there is light (pun intended) at the end of this long and dark tunnel.
Marcus Muhariwa is a trained journalist and communications professional. He has a passion for writing on social issues.