By Robert Tapfumaneyi
ZIMBABWEANS caught tampering with electricity infrastructure risk 30 years imprisonment if proposed changes to the country’s Electricity Act are to be effected.
This was revealed by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa at a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare on Tuesday.
The Minister said cabinet has approved principles for the Proposed Amendment to the Electricity Act with aims to introduce tougher penalties for crimes related to electricity theft, the destruction of and tampering with electricity infrastructure.
Mutsvangwa said vandalism and theft of transformer oil has resulted in power utility, ZESA incurring huge expenses.
“Cabinet considered and approved the Principles for the Proposed Amendment to the Electricity Act [Chapter 13:19] to introduce Stiffer Penalties for Crimes Related to Electricity Theft, the Destruction of and Tampering with Electricity Infrastructure,” she told journalists at government’s Munhumutaa building.
“ZESA has been experiencing increased incidents of vandalism including the theft of transformer oil and copper cable conductors.
”The thefts have resulted in ZESA incurring huge expenses in replacing the vandalised property, while the impact on business has been astronomical.
“To date, more than 927 transformers have either been vandalised or stolen in the Northern Region, 625 in the Western Region, 525 in Harare Region and 94 in the Eastern Region.”
The envisaged amendment process will encompass reviewing the current penalty regime for identified offences in order to make them more deterrent.
There will also be the classifying of the offences under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], which governs heinous crimes, including rape and murder, compelling courts to impose mandatory sentences, as opposed to the option of fines, which may not be deterrent enough.
Said Minister Mutsvangwa, “For instance, tampering without lawful excuse with any apparatus for generating, transmitting, distributing or supplying electricity with the result that any supply of electricity is cut off or interrupted, which used to attract an imprisonment of not less than 10 years, will, under the amended law, attract not less than 30 years of imprisonment.
“Government will from time to time review such penalties to make them more deterrent to would-be offenders.
“Over and above the stiffer penalties, Government will also ensure that adequate surveillance machinery is put in place to apprehend offenders, including through installation of electronic gadgets to detect the crimes.”