(There is commotion in the courtroom as consumers are shouting sitilora !!!! sitilora (we will not accept) as judge Mbadwa enters the courtroom)
Court Clerk: All rise! His Lordship Mbadwa’s court is now in session!
Judge Mbadwa: Mr Jonah Kapita of the Association of Disgruntled Consumers you are becoming a regular ‘customer’ of this court. Not that it is something that should worry you, but it shows that the society is gradually realising the significance of letting the Judiciary adjudicate in matters that affect the wellbeing of the people. This is your court and we are here to ensure there is recourse to the rule of law in cases where citizens’ rights have been violated.
Last time you were here, you led the citizens in asking the court to change the name of Escom so that it reflects how it is operating these days. Didn’t this court grant you your wish?
Kapita: My Lord, the citizens are law abiding. We do not want to resurrect the issue which the court ably handled. But there is one thing that has made the consumers of electricity to be more disgruntled.
The organisation, which has the whole of this year paraded more excuses about its failure to generate enough power and almost left the country in darkness for half a year—has decided to raise its tariffs.
As the association, we believe Escom does not have the moral ground to raise the tariffs to K53.69 per kilowatt-hour. It is not only an immoral act but also an ill-timed decision whose consequences will be far-reaching on consumers and the general economy of the country.
My Lord, I know it is the regulatory authority that approved the tariff hike but it is Escom which shamelessly proposed the increase. I am aware My Lord there is no legal basis for appealing to morality in handling such issues as I am doing but as laymen, we know an injustice has been done.
Why should these people raise tariffs when a few months ago they were blaming the blackouts on low water levels in Lake Malawi and now that the Almighty has flooded Shire River with water they did not even pay for, they have decided to raise the tariffs. Is that fair?
Why should consumers be forced to pay for the inefficiencies of the corporation? There is no justification whatsoever for increasing the electricity tariffs because, by their own admission, the blackouts are here to stay. They should have improved their operations first to convince us that the hike would be necessary.
My Lord, here is our reason for rejecting the hike. We think that when Members of Parliament rejected the fee hike in secondary schools, they set a legal precedent. On the same premise, we submit that the economy of this country has not recovered; hence, corporations that fleece out the people whose income is dwindling should not be allowed to mask their inefficiencies in tariffs.
The government already owes the private sector billions of kwacha, yet the corporation wants to saddle the private sector, which is failing to grow, with more costs with this recent increase in tariffs.
My Lord, we cannot allow Escom to raise its tariffs now. I rest my case.
Mbadwa: I have followed the submission of Mr Kapita closely and I agree that Parliament set a precedent in throwing out the proposal to increase school fees. The consumers of electricity in the country, who stand at a paltry eight percent or less, are the same parents who cannot afford school fees now. It follows that if they cannot afford new school fee structures, they cannot afford new electricity tariffs. The rise was an invidious decision. I hereby annul that decision. Thanks. n