Barbaric water infrastructure vandalism put Zomba City residents at huge risk of cholera resurgence

* Repair works completed last Friday and full water supply resumed from Sunday, June 4

* People were forced to draw water from some unprotected sources such as rivers and streams

* The Water Board was losing almost K14 million of daily revenue throughout the entire period of 10 days

By Duncan Mlanjira

As of Sunday, June 4, Southern Region Water Board resumed its full water supply for Zomba City and sorrounding areas ate its dedicated Team of engineers and technicians completed rehabilitation works of the main pipe from main intake of Mulunguzi treatment plant which was vandalised.


At a press conference held on Wednesday at Head Office in Zomba, Chief Executive Officer, Duncan Kambamba — accompanied by the City’s Mayor, Councillor Dave Maunde — said the vandalism, which he described as barbaric, was discovered on May 26 after the main pipe gave in due to immense water pressure when its metal support straps were removed.

Thus, the engineers at Mulunguzi Dam had to immediately close the intake in order to repair the damage at a site that is one of the most difficult places to reach due to its terrain — but thanks to the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) who assisted in transporting huge equipment such as pipes and other items.

The works were completed within 10 days, on Friday last week and by Sunday the Board was able to resume full water supply to the whole city and surrounding areas.

Kambamba flanked by Engineer Dias and Zomba City Mayor Maunde

“We greatly felt and sympathized with our customers who were subjected to dry taps for 10 days and this put the lives of Zomba residents at risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera,” said Kambamba, who was also accompanied by the City Council’s director of health & social services, Busta Chiona.

“We, at SRWB fully understand and appreciate that this was a great inconvenience to the majority of our valued customers and clients as they were sometimes forced to draw water from some unprotected sources such as rivers and streams.”

“However, as the saying goes, every problem has got an expiry date. I am therefore glad to inform you that our trying times have come to an end,” he said while highly praising the dedication of the staff on the ground — engineers, technicians, women support staff — “who were cooking for the team working almost 24/7.”


He also highly applauded the MDF and the Malawi Police “for rendering the much-needed support in transporting huge equipment such as pipes and other items to the site” — as well as other Boards that provided water bowsers to supply to residential areas.

“Under tough and very challenging days, the Board implemented crisis management measures such as reviving the old intake which enabled for partial water supply to critical public establishments such as hospitals, schools and prisons, while water bowers were constantly visiting residential areas.”

Apart from the barbaric act of vandalism caused on the customers, Kambamba disclosed that the utility company suffered a huge setback as they were “losing almost K14 million of daily revenue throughout the entire period” — on top of that they were forced to spend hugely in carrying out the repair works.

“The incident also worsened our financial standing as we are still in the process of looking and mobilizing funds to rehabilitate numerous infrastructure that has been destroyed as a result of the devastating impact of Cyclone Freddy — which has really greatly affected us and almost put is back to square one.”


The director of health & social services, Busta Chiona attested that as soon as they realised the gravity of the water crisis, they rolled out an extra gear to mitigate waterborne disease and the potential resurgence of cholera, which is under control in the city and the rest of the district.

“We made sure to sensitize the communities to desist from drawing water from unprotected sources as well as distributing Waterguard,” he said. “We are greatly relieved that we’ve not registered any new cases of cholera during the period of the water crisis.”

The Mayor applauded the Board, the MDF, the Police and all stakeholders that rendered their support to end the crisis and pledged to engage all of them back to find ways on how the area can best be protected against vandalism — that also include deforestation.

When asked the measures that has been put in the place to protect the infrastructure on the Zomba Mountain, the Board’s chief engineer, Jacqueline Dias said they have sealed off the straps with concrete as well as enhanced security features of all other parts of the main pipeline.

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She also said after reviving the old intake to cater for the crisis, they will maintain it as a parallel water supply while Kambamba added that plans are to resuscitate Domasi Dam.

The CEO also appealed to members of public to remain vigilant and report to the police of any suspected acts of vandalism, saying they have a system of rewarding tips — mainly on people who may be suspected of tampering with meters in order to steal water — but now would be enhanced with a formal installation of a Tip Off Anonymous toll free line.

He appealed to some customers who may still be experiencing water supply problems to report immediately as this is due to air locks since the repair works team are flashing out pipes.

As the whole process has strained their financial capacity, Kambamba appealed to wellwishers, both locally and internationally, “to come forward and support us financially for us to get back on our feet and continue rendering a good service to our customers in Zomba and the whole region”.

While no suspects have not been identified, Zomba became latest victim of vandalism of public infrastructure with main targeted institutions being Electricity Supply Corporationof Malawi (ESCOM); waterboards, telecommunication and the railway system.

This forced the Ministry of Trade & Industry — in collaboration with the Ministry of Homeland Security — to suspend the exportation of scrap metal with immediate effect from last month; done under the Control of Goods (Import and Export Licence) Regulations, 2020 to be initiated for 6 months in order to sanitize the scrap metal trade.

A statement from Secretary for Ministry of Trade, Christina Zakeyo last month said this was done as  “there is empirical evidence that those involved in the malpractice, sell the materials as scrap metal to fulfil their business requirements which is not in tandem with our national development agenda”.

Thus any issuance of export licenses for scrap metals has been stopped forthwith and that all licences which were issued before the notice stand revoked and no export of scrap metal shall be entertained.


During the 6 months export ban of the scrap metals, the two Ministries will:

* Review the Second-hand and Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1971 and develop regulations accompanying it;

* Conduct fresh registration of all Second-hand and Scrap Metal Dealers which will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Homeland Security;

* Formulate rules and standard operating procedures for scrap metal business in the country; and

* Call upon the stakeholders to take note of this development and liaise with the Malawi Police Service on the next steps to be undertaken in terms of registration which according to law will be done by Ministry of Homeland Security through the Malawi Police.

For more information, the public is encouraged to contact:

The Secretary for Trade & Industry

P. O. Box 30366

Lilongwe 3


Email: Tel: +265 1 770 244

With copy to

The Secretary for Homeland Security

Private Bag 331


Tel: +265 1789 308

Inquiries may also be directed through the public relations officer (PRO) for Ministry of Homeland Security, Patrick Botha at / 0999190147 or PRO for Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mayeso Msokera at / +265999150618.