Zesa loses US$4m to vandalism, theft

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ZESA Holdings (Zesa) lost property worth over US$4 million to theft and vandalism of infrastructure in 2020 alone, resulting in incessant power cuts currently bedevilling the country. 

This comes as Zesa subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), last year announced it would spend US$13,5 million to install intruder detection and surveillance systems to deal with vandalism.

It also comes as the power utility pushes to restore normal service after it acquired new transformers and vehicles worth US$18 million in a bid to eradicate load shedding across the country.

Zesa acting group stakeholder relations manager Prisca Utete told the Daily News yesterday that theft and vandalism of infrastructure was crippling the parastatal’s operations and put its integrity into question.

“During the period January to December 2020, we recorded 870 cases of cable thefts, vandalism and theft of transformers as well as vandalism and theft of transformer oil, resulting in the power utility suffering a prejudice of US$4 163 437.

“These acts of vandalism saw Zesa losing 215 transformers to various forms of theft and vandalism. During the period in review, recoveries amounting to US$830 681 were realised.

“In January 2021 alone, prejudice of the same materials and equipment amounting to US$173 400 in 74 cases were recorded, with only US$9 910 worth of materials having been recovered,” Utete said.

She said as a result of the vandalism, some people and livestock were tragically losing their lives after stepping on exposed live power lines.

“Theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure has resulted in compromise to the integrity of the network as some cables are left dangling, resulting in electrocution of some innocent consumers and livestock.

“Some power outages due to theft and vandalism have also earned the power utility a bad name of inefficiency as they are mistaken for load shedding.

“Materials and equipment that are meant for connecting new customers to the national electricity grid end up being used for replacement purposes,”Utete said.

She also said strategic installations like airports and hospitals were being affected by the power cuts.

“In some instances, strategic national areas such as airports, ports of entry, hospitals and waterworks, owing to the strategic nature of their services, end up being affected.

She said the power utility was pushing for a review of the mandatory sentence for criminals convicted for stealing power cables and transformers.

“It is our hope that when sentences are being passed, the legal framework will consider damage to the economy, human and livestock life, where some deaths occur due to the effects of theft and vandalism.

“Zesa applauds the proposed revision of custodial sentences to a maximum of 30 years from the previous 10 years, a development that we hope will be a deterrent to would-be offenders,” Utete added.

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