The forces of darkness
This country has now been taken over by the forces of darkness. Nobody is able to plan and no one has any answers to challenges facing us as a nation. Amidst the confusion, our women are busy indecently assaulting each other while men are brandishing guns which go missing following a public outcry.
And when the first citizen, President Peter Mutharika, attended a joint meeting of the Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) and Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), Malawians expected him to inspire hope. Instead, the President asked Malawians to tighten their belts further with his dampening confirmation that the solution might take more than a year to come.
Egenco told the President that it was operating at half of its capacity, generating 180 Megawatts (MW) instead of the usual 351 MW. Just this week it has revealed that its meagre generation has dropped further to 160 MW forcing Escom to condemn us to 25 hours of darkness over 24-hour days.
And the worst is yet to come because the country does not even have the kind of money that can power heavy duty generators that Egenco plans to hire from South Africa. We all remember how Paladin Africa struggled to fuel generators at the Kayelekera Mine in Karonga. Paladin, whose uranium mines are scattered across the globe, reportedly spent K3 million a day on its generators.
If Paladin which talked in Australian dollars struggled like that, who are we to manage generators with our worthless kwacha? But as Egenco boss William Liabunya admits, efforts to hire the generators are “just a quick-fix” solution and not an alternative.
District hospitals are the hardest hit as patients are dying in operating theatres and maternity wings. Dedza District Hospital for instance, is forced to use 150 litres of diesel a day just to power its essential sections such as the ICU, the delivery suite and the theatre. But this is unsustainable because the hospital cannot manage to spend K17 million on diesel alone over a 20-day month.
In its dire straits, the hospital has resorted to siphoning diesel from its ambulances. Of course everyone in this country is busy siphoning something out of any system. If one is not siphoning money from public coffers, then they are mysteriously siphoning blood from poor villagers. But that is just part of the forces of darkness running this country.
Dedza District Hospital is not alone in that situation. Machinga, Mangochi and all other district hospitals are also groaning under the weight of this irritating load shedding. Unfortunately, these are strategic hospitals. When Malawians are involved in road accidents, say at the infamous Linthipe, they are rushed to Dedza District Hospital. The case is the same with other district hospitals.
One shudders to imagine what would happen to accident victims if a hospital has neither power in its operating theatre nor diesel in its ambulances.
But ordinary Malawians cannot understand why the engineers at Egenco and Escom who also siphon a lot through obscene fringe benefits could not project the drop in water levels in the Shire River and Lake Malawi and plan ahead.
Talking about planning, Gondwe is still optimistic that the economy would grow despite these power outages. Gondwe said the government is banking on the agriculture sector which did well in the last growing season. But this is the same Gondwe who once told us that the economy would look up and everybody would clap hands for the government: it never came to pass.
Unfortunately for Gondwe, other experts do not see things his way. International Monetary Fund Resident Representative, Jack Ree, candidly says the level of power outages are neither compatible nor sustainable with the level of growth which would make Malawi to move up.
As expected, the government is pointing a finger at the past administrations for not building power plants. What the government is not telling us is that administrations that came in from 1994 have failed to maintain or build on what Malawi’s founding father, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, left for the country.
Kamuzu also hired technocrats at Escom based on merit and not on one’s home address. He never interfered in the operations of Escom but made sure that each official was responsible for their sins. Kamuzu also built state-of-the-art infrastructures at power stations to accommodate engineers where they were needed most, unlike now when they live in Blantyre City. But since the dawn of plural politics, our leaders have staffed Escom, and now Egenco, with their nieces and nephews who have no idea of how to run these utility companies. As if nepotism is not bad enough, our leaders are siphoning, yes siphoning, billions of kwacha from these companies through unsolicited supplies.
Unless we learn to plan and refrain from political interference resulting from greed, Malawi will continue to literally be controlled by the forces of darkness, not just because of the power outages
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