THE move by residents of Sunninghill suburb in Bulawayo to foil attempts to steal Zesa power cables by thieves should not only be hailed but is testimony that a combined effort between authorities and members of the public can help to combat the crime.
On Thursday, the residents woke up at 4AM to confront copper cable thieves as they were cutting the power cables before giving chase to the criminals who were forced to abandon their loot.
The area had been without power for days and the cable thieves tried to take advantage of the situation by stealing the cables.
The theft of copper cables has resulted in some areas going for months without power with areas like Sunninghill, Burnside and Mahatshula, Hillside, Parkview and Lochview, among the hardest hit.
Fed up residents decided enough was enough and confronted the criminals resulting in the recovery of the copper cables.
While their acts of bravery are commended, the residents are urged to exercise extreme caution as some of these criminals could be armed and dangerous.
It would be safer to form a local neighbourhood watch committee that will work with the police to effectively arrest the crime.
But the initiative was a starting point and strong signal to the cable thieves that the residents will not tolerate crime under their watch.
Last month, a man from Emganwini suburb was arrested by members of a neighbourhood watch committee in Nketa after he was found in possession of stolen copper telephone cables stuffed in a 50kg sack.
Confirming the arrest, Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube commended the neighbourhood patrol team as he urged residents to partner police in initiatives to fight crime.
“This is the neighbourhood watch team for Nketa, under Tshabalala Police Station and they were patrolling their areas, and as police we have been encouraging people to organise themselves like this.
“They were doing this to fight crime and theft of copper cables and this yielded results. So, in 2022, as the police we encourage the community to join hands with the police, stop and search anyone during the night, to fight the theft of copper cables,” said Inspector Ncube.
It is not only Sunninghill residents that should form neighbourhood watch committees but all suburbs so that the theft of power cables is permanently dealt with.
Zesa also needs to come on board by swiftly responding to power cuts caused by faults in order to avoid the growing perception that some of its employees could be behind the theft of the cables.
Vice-chairperson for the Sunninghill 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.
For the eradication of theft of copper cables, the community, Zesa and the police need to work closely and the power utility must work on clearing negative perceptions from residents in order to successfully deal with cable thieves.