By Mbekezeli Ncube
THE Attorney General’s office is in the process of drafting a Bill prescribing a mandatory 30-year prison sentence on electricity cable and transformer thieves to try and deter rampant thefts and vandalism on power generating infrastructure.
This was revealed by Energy and Power Development minister Fortune Chasi in a recent interview with NewZimbawe.com.
Currently, the minimum jail term is 10 years.
Chasi said it was time the law descended heavily on those dragging the country’s economy back.
The minister said the proposal will also apply on communications and transport industry infrastructure.
“We are processing a law that will place a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years on these people.
“The 30-year sentence is still being processed. It is with the Attorney General who is drafting it but I cannot say when exactly it is going to kick in,” he said.
“Also finding anyone with a bolt of our transformer will attract a 30-year minimum mandatory sentence.
“People have got to evaluate and think about this; is it really worth it being sent to jail for a minimum of 30 years for removing a bolt from a transformer or a quarter of a litre of transformer oil?
“The approach will also be extended to telephone (industry) as well as railway infrastructure.
“In Zimbabwe, we used to have electric trains powered from Gweru and now there is nothing because people stole the cables.”
Chasi said the amendment to the Electricity Act was being treated as a very urgent matter given experiences of vandalism on power infrastructure.
“The direct costs that we are meeting in terms of replacement of the infrastructure and then the downstream effects where for example we are losing capacity to irrigate wheat, we are then forced by these thieves to import wheat at huge and considerable costs to the country which is unacceptable.
“So, any well-meaning Zimbabwean will support the amendment that I am seeking to the Electricity Act.
“The message that we are sending to all Zimbabweans is that infrastructure particularly energy infrastructure is a no-go area,” Chasi said.
He also warned businesses sending people to steal copper cables and transformer oil, as they are the ones who have logistical capabilities to export, to stop the practice.