A blackout on my first day back home in December lasted all of an interrupted 19 hours.
A recent report on electricity access in Africa stated that the country has 14 million people living without electricity. For those lucky few with access, supply is not guaranteed even if one is ready to pay for it or has already paid.
Our nation is living in the dark ages.
Someone will need a sophisticated calculator to find the total cost of this erratic power supply, but to small businesses it is devastating. Easy G, a young man who makes an honest living out of cutting hair in Chitawira, Blantyre, is all but grounded. So are many others.
The cost of doing business for medium to large-scale enterprises has significantly gone up because generators do not run cheap.
And everything costs much more than just six months ago. Already, companies are constantly evaluating if it is worth the pain to continue doing business here. Its simple really: if doing business in Malawi is not cheaper than in Mozambique, to Mozambique they will go.
So, it was amusing listening to President Peter Mutharika’s end-of-year message that in 2016 “Malawi became an attractive destination for investment”.
Either the President is a hapless optimist or is hopelessly misinformed.
Either way, it is not funny. While Mutharika was saying this, newspapers were running stories of his Cabinet and heads of parastatals are ravaged by terminal kleptomania and cannot help themselves but steal from public coffers. The plunder continues and the President has not been bothered to fire anyone in anger.
“What can we do?”
We should not tire of demanding better from those we employed to get this nation working again. Should they not change, we must exercise our authority by ditching them at the next election.
For far too long, Malawians have been taken for granted by a shameless breed of politicians who only pretend to be interested in the poor during election time.
I do not know of any other nation on this continent, independent for over 50 years, never been at protracted war with itself or others, a country blessed with admirable natural resource capital, yet doing as badly as Malawi is.
No, we are not cursed; that’s a lame excuse I hear far too often to excuse our ineptitude and the erosion of national consciousness at the altar of political expediency.
We complain too much, yet we are too nice to our tormentors. We are gullible and we worship lying politicians when we should be more assertive and demanding more from them.
Mutharika has been president for close to three years now but I doubt if he knows his priority areas and the turn-around strategy for energy, agriculture, manufacturing, emerging businesses, health, education and other vital sectors
What is infuriating about Malawi is that we are doomed for a generation because nobody is planning for the next generation.
Ethiopia had worse energy problems, but started constructing a mega dam some 16 years ago. Now nearing completion, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate 6 000 megawatts, the largest hydropower plant on the continent.
Rwanda, we all know, faced far worse but look at it now? Tanzania is on an upward trajectory. Within one year of President John Magufuli in office 1423 industries were opened, including a $120 million fruit-processing factory. Some African countries are on the rise, while ours races to the bottom.
Mutharika is well aware of the grand corruption of his ministers and cronies. Yet he will close his eyes and hope the public outrage goes away. That is his management style: ignore the problems, pretend they don’t exist and maybe they will disappear.
But there is a big problem. The mood of the people is not good. There is pessimism all over the place and everyone is worried about the future of a country that does not seem to have a government with a single purpose in mind and a leadership with the resolve to fix things. My guess is that eventually-might be soon-something will snap.
You can only contain a frustrated people for so long.
People read about the endless cases of corruption in high places, they see their leadership going around in luxury vehicles while the rest feed off falling crumbs.
It is amazing that the people have remained calm thus far. The country is burning with frustration and resentment.
Something is going to have to give. n