Some organisations masquerade as rights campaigners. Their job seems to be well cut out as being to demonise and rubbish government on everything it does. They exist just to ridicule, poke fun at government and draw people against it. No wonder, the life span most such bodies in the country is aligned to the short-term objectives of their financiers.
Take the recent 22 percent average fuel price rise in the country. It is not an isolated even endemic to Malawi. Everywhere, not only in this region but in Africa as a whole, fuel prices are rising.
The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority announced the latest fuel price rises on April 11 citing soaring crude oil prices on the international market due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
In Zambia on March 31 the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) adjusted upwards the pump prices of petroleum products by K4.54/litre for Petrol, K4.68/litre for Diesel and K3.93/litre for Kerosene (one Zambian kwacha equals 45.7MK)
Energy regulation board chairperson Reynolds Bowa said the increase in pump prices is due to the continued strain in global oil supply mainly due to the geopolitical conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has exerted additional pressure on the already escalating oil prices on the international market.
In Zimbabwe that country’s Energy and Power Development Minister, Zhemu Soda, on April 10 told the nation, the frequent fuel price increases are a result of international developments which Zimbabwe has no control over.
He said over the past few days, fuel prices had risen significantly on the global market in the wake of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, which had affected supply trends as the former was the second biggest producer of petroleum products in the world.
In South Africa the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy announced the fuel price rises by 28c a litre and 95 octane by 36c/l (translated at one South African Rand to Malawi Kwacha 63).
“The department said the only driver behind these increases is the rising price of international petroleum which contributed 100 percent to the increases seen locally.”
The trend has been the same all around our neighbours, in the whole Africa and globally. Crude oil prices are rising.
On this score alone, it would have been a miracle for fuel prices in Malawi—which is a net importer of not only fuel but also of a 1001 other commodities—to not raise fuel price.
This is a simple issue which serious human rights organisations should have found no issue to vilify government for. Not only that, the Malawi government like its neighbours have also bent over backwards to mitigate the negative impact of the fuel price rise on consumers by reducing or completely striking off some fuel levies. This is epochal to say the least and needs to be encouraged.
To mitigate the fuel price rise, the South African government reduced the General Fuel Levy (GFL) by almost 25 percent from 4.58 rand to 3.3 rand. Appreciating the cut, the Automobile Association (AA) said: “The intervention to cut the GFL is significant as it shows the government is taking the issue of rising fuel costs seriously, which is to be welcomed. … Our concern, as always, is the impact of all of this on consumers and for that reason, a sustainable, long-term solution should be found sooner rather than later,” concluded the AA.
Locally, the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has also commended government’s decision to reduce or waive some levies. Pointing out that government has done so is no sin. It is simply calling a spade by its name. But for all that government has done to cushion the consumer from the fuel price rises, you still hear some organisations planning of mobilising people to march against fuel price rises. Are they living on Mars? This is when you know which so-called human rights body is genuine or not and which one is funded by government’s detractors. Genuine human rights campaigners criticise where such reaction is merited but mercenary ones always aim to find fault with something. The good thing is that both are not difficult to put one’s finger on.