Where Did We Go Wrong On Electricity!

It is common knowledge that the shortage of electricity in Malawi has reached alarming proportions and the consequences of this shortage will be felt for a long time to come. For an economy like Malawi the consequences can be devastating to the fragile economy. f While the current government should take the blame for the current situation, it will be unfair and completely stupid to assume that these problems have been caused by the botched procurement process of a few generators. The electricity problems in Malawi are a result of policy choices this country has made in the past. These policy choices were made during the time of MCP, continued during the UDF, DPP and PP reign.

One would understand the frustration of everyone including the MCP President who last week went to town to make statement on the current status of the situation. It is not the aim of this column to make a judgement on whether what was said in the statement is true or not. However, Dr Chakwera should be the first one to know that when the message is lost in the delivery mechanism then communication suffers. There are times when one tries to put aside their political affiliations and deal with issues in a rational manner if the issues being discussed are of national importance.

Sometimes the choice of words that one uses takes away the attention from the message to the semantics. This is exactly what Dr Chakwera did when he called President Mutharika a “pathological liar”. This was a very unfortunate term not befitting someone who has been ordained as a minister of the LORD and has had several years on the pulpit preaching the word of GOD. A quick reference to the book of Ecclesiastes 10 verse 12 would have helped him deliver his message.

While the message was on the procedures followed or otherwise not followed in the procurement of generators to add to the electricity generation and end the 25 hour blackouts. The debate in the rest of the week focused on whether the President lied or not when he said generators were on their way. Technically if the assertion is correct that the providers of the generators were cancelling the contract as the President was delivering his message on those generators, then the President did not lie. This is because Dr Chakwera benefited from the “after fact”. If that was the time the contractors were canceling the contract one would assume that there was time lag between the cancellation of the contract and the time that the President would have known the facts. Unless one wants to think that the President in omnipotent and therefore knows things before they happen or are about to happen or are happening some kilometres away.

But where did we go wring as nation? What is the genesis of this crisis? The first power generating station in Malawi after independence was Nkula A (1966 with 24 MW), followed by Tedzani I (1973 with 20 MW) and Tedzani II (1977 with 20 MW). This means that by 1977 the total installed electricity generation capacity was 64 MW. Between 1980 and 1992 Nkula B was commissioned which added 100 MW to the total capacity. The fact that there were no power shortaged was not because there was enough supply, NO! it was because while demand was higher the authorities rationed the power. In other words they only allowed enough people to be connected to the grid to ensure that the power is enough. This is why Malawi was the only country in Southern Africa with fewer people having access to electricity.

When the UDF government came into power in 1994, they commissioned several power projects. One of which was already underway during the MCP era Tedzani III (1995 with 52.7 MW), the other was Wovwe (1995 with 4.56 MW) and they also added Kapichira I (2000 with 64.8 MW). The DPP government added another 64.8 MW (Kapichira II in 2013 with 64.8 MW, a Diesel Power Plant in Mzuzu and a separate isolated system in Likoma District. This brough the total installed capacity from the hydropower plants to 350.65MW. Including the 1.1 MW from the Diesel Power plant in Mzuzu and 1.050MW from Likoma district, the total present installed capacity for Malawi is 352.8 MW. This pales in comparison to the estimated demand for electricity of 800 MW.

The lack of planning is apparent from all governments that have ruled Malawi from independence if one considers that while the country was busy from 1964 claiming to transform itself from an importing nation to an export led economy it only added only 129.6 MW since 1995 to the total capacity in 13 years. This translates into about 5 MW per year on average.

6 Responses to "Where Did We Go Wrong On Electricity!"

  1. Xing Kan Yen Dah   November 7, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Z Allan Ntata’s Uncommon Sense: THE FALL OF PETER MUTHARIKA AND THE END OF DPP (PART 2) If President Mutharika took the time to think about his situation, he would realize that his detractors are looking to him to act, and not talk, shout, castigate critics or make excuses. In the lead up to the 2019 elections, going into verbal wars and shouting matches with the opposition is not going to win him any votes or favors. What Malawians are complaining about right now is the failing public services delivery. Even in his speech a few days ago, leader of opposition focused on that, and the fact that he ranted without offering any suggestions for solutions should have inspired the president to realize that if he only focused on this and got the public services working, he would have a foundation to build on for his 2019 campaign. I wonder if our president, professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, was in the country when at the peak of his presidency, his late brother’s political slogan was “Let the work of my hands speak for me”. I do not believe that late Bingu would have captured the hearts and the imagination of many Malawians if his slogan was “When you are failing at your job, I will pay you a surprise visit”. Surprise visits do not solve governance problems, neither do they suddenly make competent an incompetent leader under whose watch the problems with the institutions he’s inflicting surprise visits on have originated in the first place! Last week, I pointed out the tell-tale signs that are there for all discerning minds to see that President Mutharika’s administration is falling and that it needs a major surgery. To my surprise, instead of heeding the warning, the President decided to go onto the Mulankho wa Ahlomwe podium and castigate those of us that warning against the dangers of nepotism and tribalism in his administration. With the prognosis of our country’s economy and development ominous, public services, especially energy and health sectors severely compromised, one would think any well meaning Malawian patriot would look to unite the country and ensure that everyone speaks with one voice and that all and sundry are focused unwaveringly on the goal of preserving the proverbial health of a nation almost on its death bed. It is an astounding surprise therefore that instead of emphasizing the things that bind us together and make us all Malawians, our president was busy supporting, and indeed accentuating the very separationist ideas that have continued persistently to be an ugly blot on the Malawian social landscape and resulted in hap-hazard regional-centric development. While there is nothing wrong in being proud in one’s heritage, I have always contended that given the history of our country regarding tribal groupings, encouraging and promoting the formation of cultural groupings is simply fanning the destructive fires of tribalism. In any given administration in government, a lot of fully deserving Malawians have suffered because of belonging to the “wrong” tribal grouping, while, to the detriment of the nation, favors and sometimes even highly questionable administrative lenience have been bestowed on undeserving and downright despicable individuals because they belonged to the “right” tribal grouping. I do not believe that for solutions to steady his sinking ship, president Mutharika should go on the offensive using surprise visits to parastatals or launching verbal attacks as he supports Mulankho WA Ahlomwe. The whole idea of having tribal groupings ostensibly celebrating their cultural heritage when in fact they are promoting a separationist agenda of patronage and nepotism is dangerous and against the spirit of unity that our country needs in order to move forward at a time when we are faced with formidable foes. Cultural groupings do not need presidential approval and encouragement. All cultural and tribal groupings are corrupt, dreadful and retrogressive and must be forbidden and prohibited, not promoted and patronized! On the contrary, I believe that Mutharika’s solutions to save his administration and his presidential legacy lie in focusing on what has tainted and ruined his rule, and making the difficult decisions to address the rot. For example, the Malawi Communications Regulatory authority is constantly in the headlines with stories of corruption and abuse of government power by his ministers. He needs to address that decisively by firing the MACRA boss and giving strict orders to his aides to audit the institution and make sure than all the corruption is addressed and the guilty are brought to book. I feel I need to repeat this. What the people want from president Peter Mutharika is positive action – not empty rhetoric, speeches and excuses – that addresses the most important issues of the day: Electricity, corruption, healthcare, economy. As for saving the DPP, this is a different kettle of fish altogether. The reason for the infighting in the party, and the fear that is leading trusted cabinet members to start seeking exit strategies and start talking to the opposition is the uncertainty over succession. With just over a year left before an election, there is a need for stability and certainty in the DPP regarding this question. With the president’s popularity at an all time low, many within the DPP are asking whether it would be wise to back an incumbent who seems to be more likely to lose. And many are interested in becoming the DPP candidate themselves. As leader of the party, Mutharika needs to bring stability to the party by settling the leadership question. It will be too late to try and settle this issue when the elections are three months or so away, the way he did in 2014. Carefully analyzing the situation, I would venture to suggest that the DPP probably needs a new candidate to save it from electoral defeat. Unless the president can within the next year also, turn around the rapidly declining general situation in the country that has had him labeled as a failed leader and demonstrate that he can actually take charge and show direction and purpose, to insist on running again for the DPP would be to ensure the end of his legacy and the end of the DPP as a political force. For the DPP and for Peter Mutharika, then, the writing is on the wall. Their leadership of the country, weighed in the balance is found desperately wanting. The last nail is not yet nailed to the coffin however, and it may be possible to resuscitate this failing presidency, or if not the presidency, then at least to preserve and prepare the party to make a solid stand in the next elections. Remember. Just like your late brother told Malawians, it is the work of your hands that is speaking for you; not surprise visits, speeches and excuses. And at the moment, the work of your hands is rather silent as there isn’t any work to speak of. In the final analysis then, the question is simple enough. Is President Peter Mutharika prepared to make the necessary hard choices that are required? Or is he going to capitulate once again as he has always done, and keep in place people that are clearly serving their own agendas and sabotaging his presidency with corruption, plunder and downrightly betraying his presidency?

  2. Matt Maverick Chelsea Phirih   November 7, 2017 at 10:11 am

    idoits….all u do day and night is blaming others for ur failings….for once in ur whole miserable life….pls just do wht the pple want….stop the damn blame game coz it will get u nowhere….ino si 1994 kuti anthu adakali ntulo….ZINTHU MU DZIKO ZOKAKHALA SIDZIKUYENDA ALIYENSE AMATI BOMA…SO MUKAMACHEDWA NDIKULODZA CHALA ENA MUTAYA NTHAWI…ALIYENSE AMAKAMBA ZA BOMA PA NTAWI YAMAVUTO…JUST LIKE MENE MUMADZITAMANDILA ZINTHU ZIKAMAYENDA

  3. Lovemore Wiseman Chapasingo   November 7, 2017 at 10:34 am

    this brow is massive,i think God is exposing them all

  4. Dan Wenje   November 7, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    If we include previous governments in this total madness then the current one should peacefully pave way for previous regimes to rectify this mess kodi nanga za k5000 bank note ndi vitotu limeneli…..then who is to blame mankhwala mu ma public hospitals…. Who is to blame?

  5. Whyghtone Makwalo   November 7, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Simple…JB was here but we had power…Nyapaphi in we have candles…are you still asking?


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