Fare thee well DD Phiri, welcome alternative power sources

Last week, I attended church service at St Columba CCAP. Soon after the service and while I was still in the church grounds I learnt from a colleague that we had lost DD Phiri. My heart sank for I had privately followed this giant of a man for some time.

I knew DD Phiri as somebody who knew no end to writing. You would find his articles in week day as well as weekend newspapers. He was a ceaseless fountain of ideas and knowledge. I have read some of his books and have been amazed at the intricate detail that he presented in them. It shows that the man undertook extensive research before putting pen-to-paper as he was compiling the scripts for his books.

DD Phiri was a man that espoused simplicity. If you saw a man walking down the streets of Blantyre, clad in a dark suit with a stetson hat atop his head and an umbrella in his hand, you probably saw DD Phiri. While his equals in intelectual prowess probably had a lifestyle that demanded that they change cars every two years or so, DD Phiri remained contented with his simple and an assuming lifestyle.

When I first visited DD Phiri’s office [Aggrey Memorial School], then located along Chilomoni Road, what struck me deeply were the many stencils I saw hanging in the office. I also saw a duplicator tucked neatly in a corner. I had last seen that technology more than 20 years earlier. Use of technology that many of us would have considered archaic did not bother DD Phiri one bit.” Don’t fix it if it aint broken” seems have been the philosophy of this departed intellectual.

Dr Myles Munroe (deceased) lamented the rampant waste that is a constant feature of African life. The graveyard, he used to say, was the richest place in Africa because in it lay books that were never written, businesses that were never run, films that were never shot, songs that were never sung (and I would add newspaper articles that were never published). Many people go to the grave full of ideas that never saw the light of day, charged Munroe and went on to encourage people to empty their heads while they lived so that they would go to the grave empty.

DD Phiri went to the grave empty. Whatever he needed to share with fellow countrymen and with those further afield, he shared it through his numerous articles and books. He did not keep anything to himself. The tragedy is that many newspaper readers never bothered to read his articles. Male readers would normally read politics on the first three to four pages then wheeze past DD Phiri’s feature articles enroute to the sports pages. Women would also wheeze past DD Phiri’s columns, rushing to classified advertising pages. Only few serious readers took their time to glean the unfathomable wisdom from the giant. Now, he is gone forever. Hamba kahle umfowethu!

The major political parties contesting in this year’s elections have promised to embark on serious consolidation of power generation. Some figures being mentioned appear to be far-fetched: an additional 2 000MW or so to the existing capacity is being promised.

Make no mistake about it, this country needs greater generation capacity than we currently have and, indeed, even greater capacity going into the immediate to long-term future.

One critique was quick to point out that an additional 2 000MW would mean constructing an additional 200 hydro plants, each with a capacity of 10MW. The arithmetic is correct, but the premise on which it is based is flawed. Yes, flawed in the sense that the assumption that the plants would be 10MW is outdated. Such may have been the plants of 1966. The plants that were installed later had greater capacity. Kapichira, for example, can generate 128MW when it is running fully.

Moreover, future power generation should seek to diversify into solar and wind generation. Off grid power should be vigorously explored and implemented. Wind is often looked down upon as a power source but it has great potential, especially along the lakeshore because the winds that blow across the lake meet few obstacles and; therefore, develop great power. Our colleagues in Kenya are generating 310MW along Lake Turkana via wind. Turkna is a smaller lake that our Lake Malawi. If we put our act together we can generate upwards of 500MW from wind alone.

Searching within our resources, one finds that we have exciting possibilities in terms of power generation. We can surely have excess power in this country. n

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