Cheeky power cable thieves plunged police station, hospital into darkness

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By Matabeleland North Correspondent

A GROUP of daring thieves stole two kilometre length of copper power cables, plunging a Binga police station, hospital and court in darkness.

Police have since arrested a cross border transporter suspected to be part of a gang.

The power cables were from a Kamativi-Binga line with the incident happening in January this year.

Lenos Sithole (41), a malayitsha (cross-border transporter) from Magwegwe North in Bulawayo, was arrested recently for being part of the four-man gang that caused the blackout in most parts of Binga centre.

The area affected covered the district hospital, police station, Rural District Council offices, magistrates’ courts and other government offices without electricity and water for almost a month.

Another member of the gang Insurance Nhongo (28) from Gwabalanda suburb also in Bulawayo was arrested on the same day of the crime in January at Cross Dete when the gang had stopped to refuel on its way to Bulawayo.

Nhongo, who was the driver of the South African registered Toyota Quantum, was inside the vehicle while his three accomplices were outside when police, who had acted on a tip-off, swooped on the gang at the fuel station.

Police found Nhongo sitting on the driver’s seat and the other three suspects who included Sithole fled, leaving him with the loot, which weighed 614kg and valued at $209 717, 10.

Nhongo was in January sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in jail by Binga magistrate Portia Mhlanga who found him guilty of cutting and interfering with apparatus for generation, transmission, distribution or supply of electricity in violating the Electricity Act.
The magistrate said she would not suspend anything from the sentence to deter would be offenders.

Investigations led to the arrest of Sithole who is suspected to be the owner of the Quantum because of the details on the vehicle’s temporary import permit (TIP).

Sithole has not been asked to plead to the same charge and was remanded in custody after appearing before a Bulawayo magistrates’ court.

He has however denied any wrongdoing claiming he did not know Nhongo who he only met for the first time in prison.

Sithole claimed police were misplaced to allege that he was at Cross Dete as part of the gang, whose two other members are still at large.

“I was heavily assaulted by police who arrested me at my home. Police are misleading the court by stating that I was a Cross Dete and participated on this crime yet I was never there. The only thing that links me to the offence is the TIP and police are assuming I was in the vehicle because of this TIP and my passport,” said Sithole as he applied for bail pending trial at the High Court in Bulawayo through his lawyer from Tanaka Muganyi Law Chambers.

The state has indicated it will oppose bail whose hearing is yet to be set down at the High Court.