August 18 2022
It is very much apparent that when we were leaving Egypt we were on the way to either Sodom or Gomorrah, cities on fire! It was a farce that we were leaving the hot brick kilns of Egypt to the land of milk and honey, Canaan. We are, in fact, on the way to the land of ginger and chillies.
Figure this, in September 2018 during the run up to the 2019 polls, President Lazarus Chakwera made a promise he would repeat time without measure.
His words made us feel we were walking out of the Babylon of blackouts. “I will restructure Escom to roll out my plan to exponentially increase power generation and distribution of interconnectivity, diversification of on grid and off grid power sources. In fact, I will make blackouts history,” he said.
At the time, he was talking tongue-in-cheek, being in the opposition. Today, it appears he has his foot in the mouth because blackouts are not yet history.
Blackouts are making life unbearable for many Malawians. Many businesses are suffering. One can think of the milk farmers who are throwing away every day because they can’t store it due to power outages. I am thinking of the barber who can’t shave customers because power is as elusive as the Holy Grail.
One can go on and on to talk about how blackouts have affected businesses. The leadership knows.
To add salt to injury, Escom is proposing to hike electricity tariffs by 90%. The proposal awaits the nod of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera). What offal!
Consumers are already feeling the pinch of blackouts, now they have to dig deeper in their pockets for the darkness. Babylon and Egypt can’t be badder (sic) than this.
Before thinking of raising tariffs, Escom should have been looking at how much they would give consumers more electricity, read less blackouts and increased reach. Pushing the consumers to pay more breeds little confidence on a government that made promises they wanted to hear.
It is a wonder that Escom’s call comes on the heels of chief executive officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda’s assertions that the corporation is on its death bed. As Mera waits to make its final decision, it better understand that Malawians are watching and ears are on the ground that those who care should not dare.
While we are at it, Chakwera on July 4 commuted sentences of 22 inmates who were on death row to life sentences. This was part of the Independence Day celebrations.
Since 1992, Malawi has had no executions, although the death sentence has not been scraped off the law books. The debate has raged for years whether to retain the capital punishment or drop it altogether.
Some feel executing those who commit heinous crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery would deter would-be offenders. Others feel this is the right punishment for those who take away a life.
Parliament has always been debating the issue with no end in sight to finding a solution. The sanctity of life is upheld in the Constitution. Degrading and inhumane punishment is abhorred by the supreme law.
Is it time yet we had it clear whether we have the death sentence or not? Can we depend on Parliament to move such a motion? Or, like others are proposing, can we have a referendum on the matter?
Those whose sentences have been commuted to life, only have the pleasure of the president to thank, because as it is we are still in the wilderness on this legislation.