Electricity Infrastructure Vandalism Escalates

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By Staff Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has shockingly revealed that its employees frequently pick up bodies of people electrocuted while trying to steal electricity copper cables.

None of the victims have been Zesa employees, the power utility’s southern region manager Lovemore Chinaka said on Tuesday in a virtual discussion on energy issues.

The discussion was organised by the National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora).

Chinaka dispelled claims that Zesa employees were involved in the theft of copper cables that have plunged several suburbs across the country into darkness.

“The arrests and deaths on the lines so far are not of Zesa employees. There are so many people in the country with knowledge of electricity — contractors, students, pensioners, ex-employees, contract workers and thieves who don’t have any special training, but have taken time to understand how to steal,” Chinaka said.

“You may want to know that we pick up corpses under the lines quite frequently. These are people who are enticed to do the dangerous acts, but have no idea of the risks involved. They just want the quick buck.”

Chinaka said the thieves were hitting five to seven places every night in Bulawayo.

“We need all the help that we can get to arrest this scourge. All these accusations have not helped but diverted people’s attention. The vandalism is bleeding the economy,” he said.

“Zesa is ploughing money in an area where we should not be spending any more money. We are redoing work that we had already finished.”

The company has said it is losing millions annually through theft and vandalism of its infrastructure.

Despite the offence attracting a 10-year jail sentence, Chinaka said this was not deterrent enough.

Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe once told Parliament that his ministry was pushing for removal of an option of a fine accompanied with a 30-year sentence.

“To deliver a superb service , Zesa needs resources — vehicles, materials like poles, conductors, insulators and other accessories. Zesa has been spending money replacing vandalised infrastructure and has a backlog as has been raised here today,” Chinaka added.

The Copper Control Amendment Bill is now in Parliament.

The Bill seeks to provide penalties for offence of vandalism of utilities through the theft of copper cables and for a requirement for all copper dealers to have a certificate of origin for all the copper they deal in.