Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
ZESA Holdings lost electricity infrastructure worth almost $3,7 million in the first 10 months of last year due to vandalism — affecting power distribution in the process.
Of the $3,7 million, a measly $479 679 worth of materials and infrastructure was recovered as at November 30 last year.
Vandals are largely going after overhead copper conductors, transformer windings and transformer oil, which compromises service delivery particularly at a time when the country is battling foreign currency shortages.
Thieves continue to plunder electricity infrastructure, mainly copper cables, despite the seemingly deterrent 10-year mandatory jail term for anyone caught with copper cables.
The law also punishes those found harbouring the copper cables and vehicles caught transporting the cables are forfeited to the State.
Even houses found harbouring copper cables are also forfeited to the State, in a move designed to discourage criminal enterprise.
Twenty convictions were achieved, with the culprits being condemned to varying jail terms including community service.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, lamented the continued vandalism of electricity infrastructure.
“It is regrettable that in 2018, the scourge of theft and vandalism contributed to a total loss of $3 684 679 and the power utility only managed to recover $479 615 worth of materials and equipment as at 30 November 2018,” said Dr Gumbo, during the launch of 29 operations vehicles for the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) in Harare last Thursday.
“The ministry is looking forward to receiving a full report of the measures that have been put in place to improve the security of transformers and other infrastructure.
“I am, however, happy to note that a total of 133 arrests were made and 20 convictions were achieved through the courts.”
Dr Gumbo said vandalism is now reversing the gains recorded by Zesa Holdings’ power distribution arm, ZETDC, of achieving customer satisfaction mainly through steady supplies of electricity.
Apart from “greatly compromising” service delivery, vandalism and theft of transformers and cables has also led to loss of human and animal life.
Some customers have been plunged into darkness for a long time because of vandalism, which is now being “mistaken for inefficiency” on the part of ZETDC.
With Zimbabwe not mining copper since the closure of Mhangura Copper Mine in 1999, Government believes all copper that is intercepted by security officers would have been stolen on electricity of telecommunication infrastructure.
Dr Gumbo said there was need for “serious stakeholder engagement so that this vice is nipped in the bud once and for all”.
Meanwhile, ZETDC has driven $10 million into the purchase of 254 service vehicles as it moves to increase the turnaround time for addressing electricity supply faults.
ZETDC has so far delivered 47 vehicles, of which 29 were launched last Thursday.
The 29 vehicles were procured at a cost of $997 600 from the local market.
Dr Gumbo said the vehicles would be distributed across to the power utility’s various regions to improve their mobility and attendance to power supply interruptions.