Amid pressure from Malawians, the country’s electricity generating and supplying companies are promising to eradicate blackouts by early next year.
Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) and Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) officials, made the remarks during a civil society and media tour of their power stations in the southern region.
The public and Civil Society Organisations have been piling pressure on ESCOM and the EGENCO to improve the electricity provisions in the country.
They have been questioning why there are continued blackouts despite the unbundling of ESCOM which meant to solve electricity challenges in the country.
The two bodies organised a tour to brief the CSOs and the Media on the current power situation.
Water levels in the Shire River which houses the country’s power stations have reduced, which according to the two parastatals, is affecting electricity generation and supply.
Tedzani power station for instance, is said to be producing less than 60 megawatts of electricity out of the required 92 megawatts due to the same factor.
The responsible authorities assure Malawians that all will be well by the start of January with or without rains in the country owing to the Diesel generators project which is expected to finish by December.
Patrick Kadewa who is the Acting Director of System and Market Operator for ESCOM says they will bring mechanisms that intend to save energy like the LED bulbs.
Representing the CSOs on the tour, National Coordinator for Forum for National Development indicated a reversal of the planned demonstrations against persistent blackouts.
Capital FM’s own observation during the tour revealed that, the government needs to take a step further to restore the depleted trees in communities around the areas to reduce siltation.
It was sad to see people walking freely with charcoal on their bicycles around Tedzani, Kapichira and other areas around the power stations.
Electricity is a key for social economic development of every country hence the need for it to be looked into with the urgency it deserves.
Blantyre residents are speaking out against ESCOMs’ proposed tariff hike, saying that the parastatal should only increase its tariffs when the power situation has been improved and stable.
Blackouts across the country have become the norm, despite their crippling effects on both businesses and households.
The tariff increase is said to be inevitable as EGENCO needs capital to hire Diesel generators from ESCOM to reduce power outages.
Speaking to Capital FM, residents in of the commercial capital indicated that the move is unjustifiable.
“Why should they hike tariffs as if they are giving us power when we need it?” one Chilobwe woman asked.
Another who is based in Ndirande Township said the move will have very negative impacts on a majority of Malawians.
“This will affect us badly; the hike should have only been made if we had more hours of powers and maybe two or three hours without it.
There is no point is raising tariffs as if we have electricity to even pay for, “she added.
Meanwhile, Associate Professor of Law at the Chancellor College Edge Kanyongolo disclosed to Capital FM that there is no constitutional provision on electricity supply that the public can use to make a legal complaint over the prevailing blackouts.
The Professor explains that the public can however use their right and freedom to assemble and hold demonstrations as a way of making the power supplier accountable.
In the same vein, human rights activist Billy Mayaya is planning on holding demonstrations on the blackouts that ESCOM customers are being subjected to.
Mayaya said the power outages are affecting various works in the country.
“The time has come for Malawians to rise up and be heard.
“We demand good services because this is not the first time that we have been subjected to this,” Mayaya said.
However that date or venue for the demonstrations is yet to be set.
The public continues to voice out their concern over poor service delivery from both public and private institutions.
This is despite the public institutions being run on tax payers’ money.
Among such institutions is the electricity supplier, ESCOM, which is seen to be doing a disservice to the public.
Blackouts have again become the order of the day, with the power supplier accused of not sticking to its load shedding schedule.
During a recent meeting, ESCOM asked representatives of the private sector, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry-MCCCI and heads of different health Institutions in the country, to plan accordingly.
ESCOM announced that with the low water levels on Shire River currently, people should expect normal power supply only if the country receives normal rainfall for five consecutive years.
There are fears that most companies may be forced to scale down production following the development.
The water boards in the country are the other parastatals providing Malawians with poor services.
Water interruptions continue to be experienced in most areas, with residences of Mbayani and Nkolokoti in Blantyre, sometimes having to stay up to two weeks without a drop of water from their taps.
The situation is similar in Ndirande where residents are on one day supplied with water, then left for three days with dry taps.
As for residents of Lilongwe’s area 18, they have been drinking water contaminated by sewage.
On the health front, patients seeking medical attention in public hospitals are also being given a raw deal.
They are either told to purchase prescribed medication from commercial pharmacies or in situations when they cannot afford it, sent home without any medication.
Recent media reports of an eight year old who died after allegedly being given expired drugs at a public hospital, signifies just how much the public is being taken for granted when seeking health services.
Mobile phone service providers are not exempted from the list, as they too are also failing to find a lasting solution to networks problems and improve service delivery for clients.
This is despite customers being charged exorbitantly for calls and data.
Also weighing in with his views is a representative of the consumers, the Executive Director of the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA).
John Kapito urges the public to stand up for their rights in case of any violation.
What the public expects is to see an improvement in the delivery of services being offered to them.
The service providers should be seen to care for their customers while keeping in mind their rights, and the need for accountability.
Medical personnel in various public hospitals in Malawi are sounding an alarm, following pronouncements by ESCOM that they should find alternative energy sources, since power outages will continue.
The power supplier goes on to add that the situation will only improve when the country receives normal to above normal rainfall for a period of five consecutive years.
Malawians have in recent weeks been expressing surprise following the sudden return of power blackouts, which is contrary to what ESCOM officials promised.
A letter seen by Capital FM authored by ESCOM Chief Executive Officer Evelyn Mwapasa, advises the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), and various hospitals of a round table meeting set for next week.
It is anticipated that the power supplier will, during the meeting, give a detailed update on the power supply situation in the country.
According to Mwapasa, the Blantyre meeting will enable both the private and health sectors plan accordingly.
Similar meetings will be held in the Central and Northern regions.
Power availability takes on an extra meaning in the healthcare field, as an interruption or loss of electric power at a hospital can result in tragedy as electricity power machines help keep people alive.
These include; life support machines, incubators for premature babies, ventilation machines helping people breathe, gas supplies for putting people to sleep during operations, and last but not least, blood pressure monitors. All these are needed to keep people alive and help save lives in hospital.
Heads of various public hospitals have time and again complained over the little funding they receive, which is inadequate to meet their needs when the frequent or unexpected power interruptions occur.
Ellings Nyirenda, who is the district Health Officer for Mzimba said they struggle to keep the hospital running due to power outages and with the recent announcement by the power supplier they are afraid of what’s to come.
It is sad that some Malawians have ended up dying while in the theatre, due to a loss in electricity supply.
What is coming out clearly from these public hospital managers is that their institutions are already struggling to survive, hence the need for ESCOM to do all it can to ensure steady availability of adequate power supply.
Otherwise, purchasing fuel for Gen sets or turning to solar energy at the last minute might prove suicidal.
Captains of Industry and consumers in Malawi should brace for tough times ahead as ESCOM has revealed that the power outages will continue.
The power supplier adds that the situation will only improve when the country receives normal to above normal rainfall for a period of five consecutive years.
In a letter authored by its Chief Executive Officer Evelyn Mwapasa to the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), ESCOM will next week meet members of the private sector where they will be updated on the power supply situation in the country.
The first meeting will be held on Monday in Blantyre and is aimed at enabling the private and health sectors plan accordingly.
ESCOM says there will be load shedding from time to time hence the need for alternatives.
Similar meetings will be held in the Central and Northern regions.
Earlier this year ESCOM scustomers had to find alternatives as power outages left them in the dark for at times more than 24 hours.
This led to public outcry as businesses owners incurred losses as many of them rely on electircity.
According to statistics from ESCOM, only 10 percent of Malawi's population has access to electricity and only one percent in the rural areas.