- February 2, 2021
- Posted in LOCAL
ZESA Holdings is seeking a review of the mandatory sentence for criminals convicted for stealing power cables and transformers from 10 to 30 years to curb the vice that is prejudicing the power utility of more than US$2 million annually.
The parastatal is now in the process of replacing copper cables with aluminium.
Zesa requires more than US$14 million to procure intruder detection gadgets to fight the scourge that continues to bleed the power utility. This comes as police in Bulawayo have smashed a well organised copper theft racket, arresting two suspects and recovering 150kg of overheard copper conductors worth US$12 000.
The latest arrest brings to four, the total number of suspects nabbed within the same weeks as police step up efforts in the fight against rampant copper theft in Bulawayo and its vicinity.
Thieves are taking advantage of the 6pm to 6am curfew to steal copper cables.
A number of suburbs in the city including one of the largest referral health institutions in the country — Mpilo Central Hospital — often go for weeks without electricity following theft of cables.
Simon Tapfuma (32) of Magwegwe and Police Ncube (25) of Lobengula West were arrested on Sunday in the early morning hours while their two accomplices are still at large. Tapfuma and Ncube, who were part of a group of five suspects, were arrested when detectives caught them red-handed, leading to the recovery of the loot. The tools used in the commission of the offence were, however, not recovered.
Police impounded the suspects’ vehicle, a Toyota Hiace kombi, which was carrying the stolen cables.
The suspects were targeting areas around Mpopoma, Magwegwe, Njube and Lobengula suburbs.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube confirmed the arrests yesterday, saying investigations were ongoing. “We arrested two suspects whom we suspect operated as a syndicate. Our officers from the CID MFFU (Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit) received information that the suspects who were using an orange Toyota Hiace registration number ACL 4787 were in possession of stolen overheard copper conductors,” he said.
The cables belong to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution (ZETDC), a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings.
“The detectives reacted to the information and located the vehicle and the suspects in the bush in Pelandaba West.”
Insp Ncube said upon spotting the detectives, the five men disembarked from their vehicle and took to their heels abandoning their car in the bush.
Police pursued the suspects and managed to catch up with Ncube and Tapfuma leading to their arrest.
“We recovered six rolls of overheard copper conductors valued at US$12 000 weighing about 150kg hidden inside their kombi. Investigations revealed that the suspects pulled down the cables on Sunday at around 1AM at Congo Beerhall in Mpopoma,” said Insp Ncube.
Upon arrest, the two suspects led detectives to the scene.
The suspects are linked to a series of copper theft cases which occurred in Mpopoma, Magwegwe, Njube and Lobengula suburbs.
Tapfuma and Ncube are expected to appear in court today facing charges of cutting, damaging and interfering with any apparatus for generating and transmitting electricity in violation of Section 60 A (b) of the Electricity Act.
Bulawayo has of late been hit by a series of power outages mostly due to copper cables theft, with suburbs such as Hillside, Burnside and Killarney being the worst affected.
Last week, Sunninghill residents woke up without electricity after thieves stole overhead copper cables worth an estimated US$15 000. On the same day Entumbane residents had also reported that some copper cables were found hanging from a guava tree.
During the same week, another suspect linked to an organised copper theft syndicate that stole cables worth US$36 000 from Zesa power lines in Bulawayo and surrounding areas, appeared in court.
Wisdom Ngwenya (26) of Mandisi Village in the Sigola area of Umzingwane District, who was arrested following a raid, allegedly ganged up with Tony West, Passman Kuneta and Alfred Phiri and pulled down 1 800 metres of overhead copper cables along Maggie Road in Kensington. Ngwenya’s accomplices are still at large.
Zesa’s acting western region general manager Engineer Lloyd Jaji said most of the power outages in the city resulted from copper cables theft.
Eng Jaji said the major challenge is that whenever they replace copper cables, thieves go and attack another area.
In April last year, about 950 metres of copper cables were stolen in Njube resulting the suburb including neighbouring Old Lobengula, Lobengula Extension and Mpopoma going for days without electricity.
Last May, police in Bulawayo arrested two serial copper cable thieves after using sniffer dogs to fish the two men out of a manhole while busy cutting copper cables. One of the suspects has since appeared in court and was sentenced to 70 years in jail over the US$20 000 copper theft case.
Zesa Holdings has since invited whistle-blowers to curb the upsurge in vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure witnessed in the last few months_The Chronicle