Jan 18, 2018 Last Updated 1:00 PM, Jan 17, 2018

The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) has resolved not to increase electricity tariffs after ESCOM requested the authority to approve the adjustments.

MERA considers a review of ESCOM’s electricity tariff using the Automatic Tariff Adjustment Formula (ATAF).

The last revision of electricity tariffs was done on the 3rd of May, 2016 when the inflation and exchange rate were at 22.1 percent.

In a statement, MERA Board Chairperson Joseph Bvumbwe, applying the current economic fundamentals to ATAF resulted into a -7.73% potential electricity tariff adjustment.

But Bvumbwe says the Board has maintained the tariffs considering the backlog on the implementation of the fourth tranche of the second base tariff for the 2017/2018 and the ESCOM’s revenue loss emanating from the delay in implementing this tranche.

Consumers vented their anger against ESCOM on its decision to raise tariffs at a time the power company is providing only 8 hours of electricity and subjecting them to 24 hours of blackout. 

This is not the first time that MERA has reversed such a decision.

In 2016 it was blocked by ESCOM from implementing a hike of electricity tariffs arguing that the supplier is generating enough funds for its operations though its services were deteriorating.

Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika has been convinced by the Electricity Generating and supplying Companies EGENCO and ESCOM that the current power outages will be dealt with shortly.

This transpired earlier on Wednesday, when President Mutharika paid a surprise visit to ESCOM’s head offices in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Business along the Victoria Avenue was brought to a standstill by the Malawi leader’s arrival.

According to managers of the two companies, measures are being implemented to rectify the problem, which the public and captains of industry have repeatedly expressed worry and anger over the persistent electricity blackouts.

The long hours without electricity, are affecting productivity in the manufacturing sector, and there continuous calls for the government to immediately identify solutions to the current challenges.

Though EGENCO has expressed interest in venturing into solar power, the plans are yet to be materialised.

Speaking after holding talks with EGENCO and ESCOM management, President Mutharika acknowledged the negative impact power outages are having, saying the government is giving the matter the attention it deserves.

Meanwhile, ESCOM revealed that power outages will continue until December this year as they are working on purchasing diesel generators to improve the situation.

Board Chairperson for the Parastatal Perks Ligoya told Capital FM that diesel generators may also come with high electricity tariffs upon the completion of the exercise.

“We have already signed agreements for 70 megawatts of power which may take close to a year for Malawians to use them.

As for the generators, by December about 30 generators to arrive and this will ease the power cuts that the country is experiencing,” Ligoya said.

Almost every year, Malawi experiences power cuts which arise due to the drop in levels of water in Lake Malawi mainly due to climate changes.

The level in the lake in turn affects the levels in Shire River which is EGENCO’s main source of power generation.

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.

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