Consumer Association Threatens Legal Action Over Proposed Water Tariff Hike

Blantyre, Malawi – The Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has issued a stern warning to the government, threatening legal action if it approves a water tariff hike of more than 20 percent. Cama’s executive director, John Kapito, expressed concerns about the potential implications of such a tariff increase on the cost of living and production.

Speaking at a press conference held in Blantyre this morning, Kapito highlighted the failure of water boards to fulfill essential key performance indicators, including improving efficiencies and collecting outstanding debts from government agencies. He emphasized that while water boards may require additional revenue, exceeding a 20 percent tariff increase would be met with legal action once the new tariffs are officially gazetted.

In the upcoming 2023/24 financial year, the country’s five water boards have proposed adjustments to the existing tariffs, with the struggling Blantyre Water Board (BWB) requesting the highest increase of 90 percent. The water boards have justified their proposals based on the 25 percent devaluation of the kwacha in May 2022 and the government’s failure to implement previously approved tariff increases in the current financial year, despite receiving Cabinet approval.

Kapito stressed the need for transparency and accountability in the decision-making process concerning water tariffs. Cama intends to closely monitor any tariff adjustments to ensure they are reasonable, fair, and considerate of the interests of consumers.

The potential impact of higher water tariffs on the general public cannot be overlooked. The cost of living is already a pressing concern for many households, and any substantial increase in water tariffs may further burden citizens who are already grappling with economic challenges. Similarly, the impact on production costs for businesses could have wide-ranging consequences for employment and economic growth.

The government, water boards, and other relevant stakeholders must take these concerns seriously and engage in meaningful dialogue with consumer advocacy organizations like Cama. Finding a balance between the financial needs of water boards and the affordability of services for consumers is essential. Collaboration and consultation are key to establishing a sustainable framework that addresses the financial challenges faced by water boards while ensuring access to clean and affordable water for all.

As this issue unfolds, it is crucial for the government, water boards, and consumer advocates to engage in constructive discussions that prioritize the welfare of citizens. Transparency and accountability should guide the decision-making process, while legal avenues should be pursued to safeguard the rights and interests of consumers. Cama remains committed to protecting the rights of consumers and will closely monitor developments regarding water tariffs to ensure a fair outcome for all stakeholders.

The government has not yet responded to Cama’s threat of legal action, but it is expected that further discussions and negotiations will take place to address the concerns raised by consumer advocates. The outcome of these deliberations will shape the future of water tariffs in Malawi and determine the level of affordability and accessibility of this vital resource for the country’s citizens.