The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) yesterday disconnected power to 24 households in Lilongwe after finding tenants in alleged illegal electricity connections.
‘Dubai’ Flats in Area 2 Township, housing 18 households, was one of the structures caught out with the illegal connections, which had two Escom power sources.
This arrangement ensured the tenants were virtually enjoying 24-hour power all-day long—even at the peak of the recent prolonged national blackouts that lasted up to 25 hours as they were connected to the Kamuzu Central Hospital line.
The other six households were found using a twin wire that connected the houses and Dubai Flats, against the professional way of restricting such twin wire to only a single household.
Escom made the discoveries during household-to-household checks meant to bust illegal connections in Lilongwe yesterday. The checks will be ongoing.
Escom says Dubai Flats owner (name witheld) will need to explain why and how the property ended up with the illegal power connections. The owner is expected to pay a fine of at least K65 000.
Accompanied by media and police personnel during their checks yesterday, the Escom officials discovered that Dubai Flats were connected to two Escom power sources; the Area 2 line that caters for households and shops in the area and another line that supplies power to KCH.
During load shedding, Escom usually spares some key institutions offering essential services such as hospitals.
Speaking during the check, Escom chief engineer responsible for technical faults Joe Ngwenya Zisiyana said these illegal connections, gave the households at the Dubai Flats power all day long, as they switched from one line to another.
He said: “We received tip-offs that during the time we experienced frequent power blackouts, someone made illegal connections to the flats, where there had been power from two sources: through a change-over from the normal Area 2 line (when there is a blackout) to the KCH feeder line, so that these households should have power all-day.”
Zisiyana condemned the activity, saying it can lead to fatalities at KCH.
“When Escom is coming up with lines, there are designs and loading patterns. So tampering with a feeder line that supplies power to KCH could have an effect on the feeder going to the hospital.”
He added: “All flats are connected to a single twin wire; hence, are at risk of catching fire because the wire is being overloaded.”
However, Escom would not yet confirm if the illegal connections involved some of its staff, saying it will investigate the matter.
Escom is said to be losing over K1 billion to illegal connections every month, mainly through power by-pass. In 2013, a Weekend Nation investigation unearthed an illegal electricity connector called ‘Escom Two’ which had done illegal connections in Salima, Mchinji, Nkhotakota and Lilongwe, swindling the power statutory.
At the time, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority had warned that all persons whose structures were not certified by the organisation would be liable to a fine of K5 million and 10 years imprisonment, as guided by the Electricity Act and electricity by-laws of 2012.