NGO tackles energy, water gaps

Democracy Works and Freedom House have convened political leaders from different parties to share ideas on how to speed up access to safe water and energy for all.

This is part of a US-funded social inclusion and accountability initiative as the country strives to ensure universal access to water and sustainable energy by 2030.

Last September, civil society representatives met in Lilongwe to rate national strides towards ensuring no one is left behind in the two sectors.

Access to clean water is still a dream for some Malawians

Dr Augustine Magolowondo, the chief of party of the Southern Africa Political Parties and Dialogue Programme, said the two sides will come together in the capital city on Thursday to share their priorities and roles.

Speaking during the opening of the politician’s turn on Monday, he stated: “CSOs don’t make decisions, but it is the politicians who make big decisions.

 “So this is a unique platform of interface where CSOs and politicians meet to discuss topical issues, share experiences and ask each other difficult questions in a constructive way as they try to come up with the best way they can serve their people.”

The governance expert said parties will only remain relevant if they have a clear direction on how to respond to challenges faced by the citizenry.

However, Afrobarometer perception surveys presented by Professor Boniface Dulani show the number of Malawians who admittedly belong to political parties dropped by 20 percent— from 82 to 62—between 1999 and 2017.

During the 36-hour blackouts of 2017, the opinion poll showed that 80 percent of Malawians felt government was doing a bad job to provide reliable electricity. As taps run dry due to the power hiccups, 59 percent of the respondents said they were happy with water supply even though 82 percent still get drinking water outside their homesteads.

Dulani asked governing and opposition parties to unite in closing gaps slowing water and electricity supply regardless of where people live.

Democracy Works country director Ennettie Mbuka said politicians have a huge role to provide checks and balances as well as sensitise citizens to the importance of energy to agriculture, education, health, water supply and other spheres of life.

“Many people are not demanding energy because they don’t know how it can transform their lives, but you cannot talk about food without water and energy,” she said.

According to the 2018 census, only 12 percent of households in the country use electricity for lighting.

However, only four percent of rural households are connected to the grid 40 years since the start of Malawi Rural Electrification Programme.

Khumbolane Lungu, from the Department of Energy Affairs, said government has embraced off-grid solutions the size of the 80-kilowatt solar-powered mini-grid in Sitolo Village, Mchinji, to electrify rural areas far from the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) distribution network.

United Democratic Front secretary general Kandi Padambo, a former Escom chief executive officer, said the tragedy with multiparty competition is that parties in power strive to impress the public by attempts to outclass their predecessors.

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