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Who is fooling who in electricity circus?

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So Christians will spend the whole Easter Holiday in darkness. They will commemorate the violent death and resurrection of their Messiah, Jesus, in the dark.

This is according to an Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) announcement.

After President Peter Mutharika last year visited Escom offices in Blantyre and the hype that accompanied the arrival of the much-touted gensets, things seem to have gone from bad to worse.

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Probably Mutharika’s storming of an Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) and Escom workshop was a knell for the two power organisations. It was the recital of last burial rites for Escom and Egenco.

We are now where we were; worse than ever before.

To make things much worse, Egenco and Escom raised electricity tariffs from K58 per hour to K73 per hour on the pretext that the money would be used to buy fuel for the gensets.

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I am sorry to say Escom and Egenco have duped us. They are daylight robbers.

In the first place, why did Escom and Egenco raise the tariffs before the gensets were switched on?

I heard Egenco Public Relations Officer Moses Gwaza say on radio that his company is fixing the gensets at Mapanga and the process would end by May while, in Lilongwe, he was not so sure when the process of installing the gensets at Kanengo would start.

This is bizarre.

I do not know if we have Malawians at both Escom and Egenco.

I am not attacking anyone personally but what I am trying to drive at is that the issue of problems of hydropower is not new. These people produce data which shows that Malawi would be faced with this problem.

Or am I directing my anger at wrong people? Probably yes.

Maybe the problem is politicians who have been ruling us since 20 years ago when power experts knew that electricity problems would be imminent.

Therefore, our good leaders of the past and present were supposed to put in place policies and programmes that would have averted the present scenario.

President Mutharika was not supposed to be standing here today to answer questions of power blackouts from us; this was supposed to be sorted out long ago.

Previous administrations were supposed to invest much in power generation development and power supply programmes but it looks like they had their priorities upside down.

However, this does not exonerate Mutharika from this mess. After all, he has been in power for four years now. What can he show to us, Malawians, that he has done something to clean the mess?

After all, he was the key part or the heart of his brother Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration from 2004 to 2012 or thereabouts.

Literally, the President has done nothing except for the ill-timed and ill-procured gensets which are milking the poor taxpayer huge sums of money.

I think Mutharika was either ill-advised by some technocrats on the gensets or there is some element of corruption in the hiring of the gensets or both.

The best the government could have done was probably to go for solar. It is quick, efficient, effective, environmentally friendly and cheap system to run than the fuel guzzlers, the gensets.

It is sad that, as a result of poor planning, ill-advisory, ill-procurement, the government, through Egenco and Escom, has decided to punish the customer through the high tariffs in the name of raising money for the fuel of the generators.

This is silly, very sickening and insensitive.

Civil society organisations should come on top of this to stop this nonsense by taking both Egenco and Escom to court so that they are forced to reverse the decision of the additional tariffs for the gensets.

The action by Egenco and Escom is deplorable and insensitive to Malawians as this action is hurting the economy; the very fibre of the livelihood of every Malawian.

It is a waste of time and resources for Vice- President Saulos Chilima to lead a government and business delegation to India for the just-ended India-Africa Partnership summit to lure investors when the country does not have the needed electricity to power factories.

The would-be investors would just jet in, look around, ask if there is constant electricity and then go to Mozambique to invest because there is electricity all day, every day.

It is a futile attempt to woo investors by having the so-called Mlambe One Stop Delivery Centre to ease problems investors face when they want to have their businesses in Malawi, yet once the businesses are here, the workforce will have more hours basking in the sun doing nothing due to power shortage.

The main challenge is not about the process of getting clearance to have businesses in the country; the major problem is scarcity of electricity, the intermittent power supply.

Secretary to Treasury Ben Botolo recently told the media that the government is now thinking of borrowing money from the pension fund which has some K600 million lying idle so that new hydropower stations are open.

Very brilliant idea, very feasible indeed to have new hydropower stations on Songwe and South Rukuru rivers but this is a long-term plan. This is not treatment for a critically ill patient who is in intensive care unit.

I am told Press Corporation has proposed to generate some 60 or so megawatts of electricity to the grid.

This is good news but for how long should we wait for this?

The government should think of immediate remedies to the problem because the situation is critical and has already got out of hand.

As we wait for the new action, the new tariffs must be stopped.

The situation has potential of knocking out the economy whose figures on paper looks good and bright; these power outages have potential of removing gains Goodall Gondwe has made for the economy.

This is why I am calling this electricity issue a circus.

Probably someone is fooling someone because this issue can be explosive and toxic electoral issue which has the potential to kick the Democratic Progressive Party-led government out of power. Nothing is impossible in Malawi!

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