President Lazarus Chakwera has assured Malawians that over 6 million litres of fuel is being hauled into the country, while at the same time daily distribution of product has been doubled as short-term solution to address the current fuel crisis.
Chakwera said this today, August 7, in Lilongwe at the Malawi Investment Summit, where he assured the citizenry to solve challenges of scarcity of forex — which are at the root of this problem.
He said his administration has already secured US$28 million from local banks for the purpose of procuring fuel as short term solution and the leadership is “in pursuit of another US$50 million facility for the same — on top of instructions the Reserve Bank has received to prioritize fuel procurement in the allocation of any forex we secure”.
In response to the long lines of cars queuing for fuel in several parts of the country, Chakwera said he hosted a meeting with officials from Ministry of Energy, National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) up until past midnight on Tuesday night — and as of Wednesday, “they are working around the clock to address the situation with [his] instructions”.
“I know that the current shortage of fuel is adversely affecting manufacturing, businesses, work, and domestic life, and I want to assure you that we are seized of this matter to ensure that there is product in the service stations in the short term, while we work on the long term.”
He cited that in the energy sector, they are “fighting a culture of dysfunction and disorganization” at Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO), Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) and Power Market Limited (PML) — saying their dysfunctionality resulted in a national blackout two weeks ago.
“Of equal importance are investment opportunities in energy infrastructure, some of which are already on the way, such as the IS$60 million rehabilitation of the 130MW Kapichira Power Plant, which suffered damage from Tropical Storm Ana and triggered the current spate of blackouts.
“But with this investment, that power plant will be back on line by Christmas and we will be back on track with our goal to raise Malawi’s power generation capacity from less than 400MW to 1,000MW by 2025.
“It is in our quest of this goal that just yesterday, my Government also signed a binding agreement to construct a 350MW Hydro Power Plant at Mpatamanga, with money from a consortium of financiers led by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group.
“In this context, the current blackouts are a temporary headache we will cure by the end of the year, but the real story in the end, the real story when all these new power plants are completed, will be that my Administration tripled the power base of the country and ended blackouts for decades to come, thus creating endless avenues for electricity-dependent economic activities that have never been possible in this country.”
He added that one other avenue to economic solutions is the development of a robust digital economy, saying his administration is also pursuing investments in ICT infrastructure that will ease transactions and expand the reach of our products into new markets by maximizing the 3,000km-long national fibre backbone being built to create a digital economy of the future.
“Our expanded power base will open up is mining, and so we are inviting suitably qualified investors to partner with us in the development of mining infrastructure to fully take advantage of the discovery of rare earth elements, alluvial gold, limestone and dolomite, coal, rubies, uranium, rock phosphate, talc, oil, gas, and the largest deposit of rutile in the world.
“The second obstacle that makes the building of a growing economy a unique challenge are the prevailing adverse economic conditions that have been occasioned by external factors.
“I am talking about communities whose economic activities have been set back years by climate change impacts, industries that have been decimated by CoVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions caused by policies and wars in foreign lands, and a mountain of toxic debt that has shrunk the maneuverability of our fiscal space.
“This is why we are actively engaged in intense negotiations with local, regional, and international financial institutions to create facilities that will help us surmount this obstacle.”
Apart from these measures, Chakwera said his administration is also reviewing policies, legislative and regulatory frameworks to improve the investment climate, saying these include “reviewing the Investment and Promotion Act (2012) to strengthen Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC)”
It is also for the operationalization of the One Stop Service Centre, developing an electronic business licensing system, implementing the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan, setting up a Private Sector Delivery Unit within his office.
As well as a Presidential Private Sector Council, which he will “unveil next month, coupled with upcoming engagements with the Private Sector to jointly develop land regulations that are investment friendly”.
“I am also excited to announce that we see the clear need for the formation of a development corporation that will streamline the investment drive, and I am grateful that Ms. Clare Akamanzi, who leads a similar institution in Rwanda is here to share her experience of this model.
“I really believe that with your support, the best days for Malawi are ahead of us, and not too far away,” said the President.
Ahead of his speech, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) implored on Chakwera to solve the fuel crisis that has “bedevilled the country over the past two weeks, saying this is “a sign that the country is sitting on a time bomb.
The statement made today, September 7, came after NOCMA declared the fuel scarcity as a crisis yesterday, Tuesday, saying it has run out of both petrol and diesel in its Strategic Fuel Reserves — barely a week after assuring the public that it has enough fuel in the country.
Rather than just talk about the scarcity of fuel currently being experienced, Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) also asked the country’s leadership to assure the public when to expect next supplies.
In its statement, HRDC says the government’s silence on the situation on the ground is like its admitting that that the Tonse Alliance “has no solutions in sight for this crisis”, therefore the best is to “accept their shortcomings, step aside and let a competent team lead this country forward”.
“We urgently call upon President Lazarus Chakwera to address the nation on what is going on in the country and to explain what government is doing to normalise the situation,” said the statement from Gift Trapence, HRDC national chairperson.
In an interview today, CAMA’s Executive Director, John Kapito described the alert from NOCMA as “a really sad story”, adding that NOCMA had been “lying all along of the availability of fuel in the national reserves”.
“Now they have come out and issued a statement like this without even assuring consumers when to expect next supplies,” he said. “This is going too far by playing around with the peoples patience.
“Surprisingly, there is total silence from MERA, which is the regulator. This is handwork not befitting a country — we can’t allow amateurs like these ones to run the affairs of the country.
“Fuel is the heart of the country, it’s scarcity has negative implications to both country and individuals. This is pathetic and very shameful for the country’s leadership,” Kapito said.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Trade and Tourism has obtained a subpoena for top management to appear before it on Friday this week without fail or face unspecified action.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe yesterday, the Committee’s chairperson, Simplex Chithyola-Banda disclosed that NOCMA deputy chief executive officer, Helen Buluma was expected to appear before the committee with her officers to explain on the ongoing fuel shortage being experienced in the country — but she never did by giving an excuse.
Chithyola-Banda went further to warn NOCMA officials that they risk being in contempt of Parliament if they again fail to show up on Friday.
“We are yet to get details on their failure to appear before the committee but we hope they will honour the subpoena to avoid being in contempt of Parliament,” Chithyola-Banda said.
This piece of revelation also attracted public consternation, with Yamikani Kanyinji describing NOCMA as being “brimmed with drama” and that “it’s a failed institution”.
“Last time they embarrassed fired staff in the papers. Their holier-than-thou attitude will push them into apocalypse. Get to serious business to fix the mess — NOCMA this and NOCMA that, is such a monotonous song.”
Others hinted that it seems NOCMA top management “is untouchable” by the country’s leadership and that they are “holding this country to ransom and none of us seems to care”.
A source, who asked not to be mentioned blamed the Parliament Committee, saying they have themselves to blame for not taking any action on Secretary to the President & Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba, who also failed to show up when she was also summoned before it.
They alluded that such a no-show by a high-ranking government officer — who happens be chairperson of NOCMA Board — provided a precedent, which NOCMA is following suit.
“If you let impunity roam free, then don’t blame others for doing the same. This is clear war between lip service government and Parliament,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :