Escom; what a nightmare it has become. The worst part is that it has transferred its fright to all of us that are connected to the electricity grid to the extent of dictating our programmes. We are living in perpetual fear in our own houses, with the uncertainty of whether we shall eat, watch our favourite programmes on television, iron clothes, study or attempt a visit elsewhere without considering possible return to the pitch of darkness and our safety. Escom [Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi] has altered what we thought was civilisation, back to primitive living.
An otherwise typical day gets a fair share of Escom’s wrath—turning an entire household upside down. One minute you attempt to cook and from nowhere, Escom decides you cannot just do that. It does not matter what meal it is because the switch off is haphazard. You try to beat these schedule operators at their game, but there is no winning. An attempt to prepare a meal at 5am or before will still attract the wrath of the employees stationed at the switches. They just seem to enjoy causing misery to us all, whether it is in the line of their duty, that is besides the point. The light on an electric bulb has become the eighth wonder in Malawi. Once it flickers, the excitement and confusion becomes evident. We all want to rush in doing the things that demand electricity, almost abandoning everything else. The dilemma is exacerbated when the lights are turned on simultaneously with water—by the water boards—another complete failure in pleasing clients. Should one fill up the dry water reserves, iron, cook, study, warm the bath or rush to get the latest on the news? Should they rush to turn on the refrigerator, whose contents are fast becoming a health hazard because of constant defrosting and freezing and complete loss of freshness for those non-freeze items? Does one rush to respond to the call of nature overdue from the last running of the taps? How long will the lights or water stay at each interval? How long before the toilets begin releasing the stench from the dormancy of dryness?
And then comes the surprise of the two entities—Escom and water boards’ equated behaviour. You would be lucky to have both supplies at the same time. Otherwise, it is either. If you get lights the whole day, be sure to be punished the next day with darkness.
Television has now become a luxury, probably because once on, preference to electricity usage is prioritised to essentials such as cooking, ironing or studying. They come at awkward times, necessitated by desperation. The strange thing is that these experiences never change. Every year, we are told the same stories. The only thing that changes is their billing and tariffs, which by the way, Escom or the water boards never miss. Bring back our lives once and for all, I beg! We are weary of this fear. n