In the thick of the fuel shortages of the past two or so years, there was a joke that used to make rounds in social circles. It was about a new â€œmust-haveâ€ accessory in every vehicle, besides a spare wheel, jack and a pair of red reflective triangles: the jerry can or zigubu.
People joked about traffic police officers fining motorists for not carrying a jerry can in their vehicles. That was amid the shortages prior to April 2012.
Well, it appears the jerry cans are back for real. Motorists who abandoned zigubu have taken them aboard their vehicles from where they were dumped.
I recall President Joyce Banda mentioning the disappearance of queues in filling stations as one of the achievements during her first 100 days in office after ascending to the presidency in April in line with constitutional order after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace).
However, from the look of things, it would appear the honeymoon is over for motorists. Suddenly, people are back to square one as they spend productive hours searching for fuel from one service station to another.
First it was in Mzuzu in early September, then Lilongwe. Now, the problem has spread to Blantyre, Zomba and the entire nation.
During Mutharikaâ€™s rule the fuel drought started in the same manner as they have resurfaced today. That time, authorities assured the nation that there was â€œno cause for alarm.â€
The more things change, the more they remain the same. In the early stages of the last fuel drought, authorities gave conflicting reasons for the problems. I have noted the same trend this time around. Like was the case before, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) keeps assuring the nation that there are enough supplies of fuel. This begs the question: Where are those supplies when motorists keep hitting blanks in filling stations where the fuel is supposed to be stocked and sold?
When one identifies a problem, the next step is to find a solution. From the reasons given by authorities, it would appear the causes of fuel shortage include increased demand; hence, we need to match this demand with supply. If increased vehicle population is causing congestion on the roads, good planners plan expansion of the road network. In the same way, if our fuel reserves are failing to meet importation of fuel and other strategic items such as fertiliser and drugs, how can we generate more forex?
In her maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Banda said: â€œMalawi is on a journey. A journey to change its trajectory. A journey to make real change happen. A journey to foster private sector growth. A journey to be an integral part of the global community….Malawi is ready to take its turn to grow. To grow not just the wealth, but also the opportunities, hopes and freedoms for all the Malawian people. As a new President and a new member of this global community of leaders, I ask for your support as this one African country journeys to realise its full potentialâ€”for its people, for Africa and for the world.â€
It is a fact that our economy is going through tough times. It is also a fact that the JB administration inherited problems from the previous regime. But, that is water under the bridge, we need to move forward.
This excerpt from How To Die Without Regrets by Albert Ellis should inspire all and sundry to let the past be history and focus on building a solid foundation for the future today: â€œThe best years of your life are the ones in which you decide [that] your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother [or father], the ecology or the president et al. You realise that you control your own destiny.â€
As long as we continue talking more and doing very little, Malawians will continue being subjected to the torture of carrying zigubu and wasting their precious man-hours on queues â€œhopingâ€ to buy fuel.