Blantyre Water Board (BWB) has branded consumer rights activist John Kapito as a hypocrite for hitting at BWB’s 23 percent tariff hike when the board Kapito chairs has effected a 33 percent increase.
Reacting to Kapito’s assertion that BWB was “insulting customers” by raising the tariff while struggling to provide potable water, BWB acting chief executive Henry Bakuwa said all the country’s five water boards, including Southern Region Water Board (SRWB), which Kapito chairs, raised the tariffs effective July 1 2016.
Bakuwa also dismissed Kapito’s accusations that BWB was failing to supply water, saying the board has improved in its service delivery.
Said Bakuwa: “We have now improved on water supply than the past two years. We are now able to supply water to our consumers without any challenges as it was in the past. It is only for the past two weeks that we have been experiencing some challenges.”
Besides BWB and SRWB, the other water utilities are Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), Central Region Water Board (CRWB) and Northern Region Water Board (NRWB).
The boards last raised the water tariffs in September 2015. The tariff hike ranged from 10 percent for BWB to 45 percent by LWB.
Kapito’s SRWB has effected a 33 percent tariff hike whereas NRWB has raised the price of its water by 30 percent, according to public relations manager Edward Nyirenda.
We could not immediately establish the tariff raise percentages for CRWB and LWB. CRWB public relations officer Zephelino Mitumba and LWB spokesperson Bright Sonani said they were yet to get information relating to the hike.
In an interview on Friday, Kapito, who is also executive director of Consumers Association of Malawi( Cama), defended the hike in water tariffs at SRWB, saying water pumping costs have gone up, among other factors.
He said: “The water tariffs are adjusted yearly to meet the cost of pumping water even in the harsh economic times as it is now. Were people not buying fuel when it was scarce and almost double the price? What matters is the product availability.”
According to Kapito, SRWB is justified to raise its tariff because it does not have supply problems and delivers water to its consumers.
“What is the justification of raising water tariffs when the product is not available to the consumers? My argument is on the availability of water,” he said in reaction to Bakuwa’s remarks that he is being hypocritical.
Kapito said if the raise was not effected owing to a bad economic environment, things would be worse as the boards would fail to supply water to their customers for failing to meet costs.
He said: “Go on the market, even prices of bottled water are going up, but people are still buying.”