ESCOM workers are reportedly considering staging a national strike over issues relating to salary increments.
Details about the strike have been making rounds on social media for the past weeks, but a source within Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi confirmed the matter.
Capital FM has learnt that those planning to stage a strike are workers at Power station in Chichiri, Blantyre.
They were expecting a salary raise in March this year, but the management assured them that they will get an increase this month.
It has however emerged that there are no plans of raising their salaries this month, as the process of issuing salaries has already started.
However, ESCOM’s Acting Public Relations Manager George Mituka earlier trashed the reports, telling Capital FM that workers were not planning to stage a strike.
The development comes amidst concerns of the long hours of blackouts that are being experienced in the country.
Though ESCOM has denied reports that the load shedding schedule has been changed, Malawians continue to be subjected to up to 9 to 10 hours of no electricity on a daily basis.
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.