Angela Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
ALERT residents from Bulawayo’s Sunninghill suburb woke up at 4AM yesterday and confronted thieves as they were stealing Zesa power cables before the criminals fled the scene leaving behind their loot.
The cable thieves had taken advantage of absence of power to cut the remaining power cables in the area.
Parts of Sunninghill have been without power for some time with residents experiencing a dark festive period.
Cobber cable thefts have been on the rise in the last six months with suburbs like Sunninghill, Burnside and Mahatshula, Hillside, Parkview and Lochview, among the hardest hit.
A Chronicle news crew visited the suburb yesterday and witnessed the police attending the scene of crime at around 10AM before Zesa officials came and collected the cables.
One of the Sunninghill residents who confronted the cable thieves, Mr Thulani Khumalo, said they were woken by a call from a neighbour who had heard people in her yard.
“We got a call around 4am from a neighbour and when we went out to investigate, we heard her shouting and ran towards her direction, but the thieves had already escaped,” he said.
“We then heard sounds of cables being pulled and we split ourselves into pairs and ran to different directions in pursuit of the thieves. We, however, failed to catch them so we just focused on securing the already cut cables.”
Mr Khumalo was with his four brothers and some neighbours.
His brother Kevin said they would have caught the thieves had residents come out in their numbers.
“Only three out of about 20 households took action when they heard the noises, but if we had gone out in our numbers, we would have caught them. One of our teams tried to run after one of the thieves, but he disappeared into a thick bush,” he said.
Residents also spotted a suspicious car that was parked along the main road, which sped off as soon as they started chasing after one of the thieves.
“There was a white twin cab parked along the road and the moment we got to the road, it sped off towards the direction of town. It is suspicious that we went for four days without power because of a small issue like a broken wooden plank, then when power was restored, our side was left out and then a day after, cables were stolen. It all looks like something that was done deliberately,” he said.
Vice-chairperson for the Crime Consultative Committee, Mr Clive Ncube, said it seems those with knowledge of electricity were behind the thefts.
“Zesa officials are not forthcoming on these issues and this whole thing looked like a deliberate power blackout for the harvest of copper cables and the only people who have the capacity to pull such a stance are those in charge of the power supply,” Mr Ncube said.
“It is by luck that we were alert or else we would have lost these recovered cables and residents would have been burdened with buying replacement cables. There is something fishy about this whole thing and Zesa is not forthcoming and unreliable at the moment. I am not afraid to be quoted saying this, Zesa is letting us down.”
The residents expressed fear that the cable thieves will come back for the remaining cables any time, plunging them into darkness for a longer period.