COVID-19 HITS HARD
Malawi is a land of absurd policies, so says our life leader of delegation, the one and only indomitable and indefatigable Genuine Prof Joyce Befu, Mega-1.
Malawi has laws which only some sections of society are forced to observe. Exempli gratia. Traffic laws say only those motor vehicles certified fit, number-plated and insured should be driven on the roads of Malawi; but, hey, look around you. Traffic police vehicles have no number plates; have such warn out tyres that even oxcart (ngolo) makers will refuse to buy them, and are often overloaded with human cargo, Covid-19 or not.
In Malawi, the traffic law is that no one should ride a motorbike without number plates. What do you see on the roads of Malawi? The same laws say all motor bike riders, ‘drivers’ and passengers alike, should each wear a helmet and switch on the lights day and night. But, hey, what do you see on the roads of Malawi?
Malawi is a country where the law is not blind.
With no scientific backing, Malawi’s highways are full of maize ridges whose impacts, we dare challenge, are the many accidents, some fatal, we witness on our roads. The industrial hemp ridges, or rumble surfaces, on our roads are not different from digging potholes in the roads. Perhaps, as our president Zuma frankly put it one day, we are so used to bad potholed roads that we don’t believe a road can be smooth for people to enjoy a smooth ride. Speed regulation can be done using traffic lights; not industrial hemp ridges.
How the rumble surfaces were implemented without any evidence-backed government policy or law is as interesting as it is surprising and shocking. If engineers don’t know the effectiveness of the rumble surfaces, where did the government learn to plant ridges like those on the Mzuzu–Nkhata Bay Road, hills and mountains, like those on the Zomba-Liwonde-Mangochi Road? Show us the scientific justification.
In this land of absurd policies anything can be introduced and adopted, with or without written government policy or law.
In this land of policy absurdities, to access water, you need to apply for service from legally established institutions, namely the Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Zomba, Central Region, Northern Region and Southern Region water boards (in alphabetical order). When your application eventually gets approved and accepted the water boards come to install their meters. When your bill comes, check carefully. You pay for renting the meter and for meter reading as well. And value-added tax at 16.5 percent introduced by the multi-party governments we have had since 1994.
Even worse, when Water board’s meter gets stolen, you are held responsible for the theft. And you have to pay (K150 000 only) before they can provide another meter. In short, water board clients are also unsalaried water board meter guards.
Another absurdity is Escom’s silent policy. Legally, Escom is a private corporation, but is still treated and behaves as a public entity. If you didn’t know, now thou knoweth.
It’s against national policy to build in the road, electricity and other wayleaves. If you do, the government will demolish your building and Escom and the water boards cannot service your building. But check around and report to us what you will see.
The mother of all policy absurdities is probably this one. A friend of ours applied for power and waited for 10 years. Yes, one decade. Mwana kubadwa, kukwawa, kuyenda, mpaka kudzafika Sitandade Seveni. Escom kept complaining about cables, transformers, poles, oil, fuel, and even vehicles. Eventually, this friend of ours was told the only genuine problem was shortage of transformers.
So, this friend of ours asked Escom if it would be acceptable for him to buy his own transformer. He was allowed to go ahead. At K12 million the transformer was ordered from, we don’t remember exactly, but still Escom could not connect him. Then, 12 years after the initial application, some political BIGI intervened and our friend’s home was connected. Guess what? Escom told him that the transformer he had bought at K12 million henceforth belonged to Escom. No compensation. It is Malawi government policy, he was told.
Do you understand the VAT law on bank accounts? Yet we keep complaining that Malawians shun banks. How can they not? Google and check for yourself and see how friendly the banking systems are elsewhere.
Welcome to Malawi. Welcome to the land of absurd policies.