Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
THE power utility, Zesa, cannot cope anymore with the level of theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure resulting in incessant supply disruptions at a time the economy is facing challenges.
At least four transformers are stolen every day while hundreds of kilometres of power cables are being vandalised amid limited resources to repair and replace them, authorities have said.
At some point President Mnangagwa suggested that the spate of theft and vandalism of power infrastructure could be involving Zesa workers, as he called for tough measures to bring culprits to book.
Zesa is now advocating for a statute to increase the mandatory 10- year prison sentence per count that is currently being imposed by the Courts on those convicted of contravening section (3a) of the Electricity Act, which prohibits receiving or taking possession of any material used for generation and transmission of electricity.
The argument being that the existing penalty is not deterrent enough as evidenced by the surge in theft and vandalism of the power equipment across the country. Both domestic and industrial clients have repeatedly blamed Zesa for poor service, which has been exacerbated by vandalism of equipment, and reduced grid due to antiquated power generation plants. Cable thieves take advantage of power outages to steal the components that they reportedly sell to mainly scrape metal dealers, who export it or sell it to local steel makers.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Engineer Gloria Magombo, also expressed worry over the issue while accompanying Vice President Constantino Chiwenga during a tour of sub-division six of Loozani Farm just outside Kwekwe last week.
“I would like to urge farmers to protect power infrastructure because this is where our biggest war is. As we speak right now, we are losing three to four transmitters daily and hundreds of kilometers stolen especially copper lines,” she said.
“We would like all consumers to ensure vandalism comes to a stop and we will continue working with other arms of the Government to ensure that the penalties for such hideous crime is increased so that we protect our infrastructure.”
The farm is owned by A2 farmer Mrs Tsitsi Mbudzi, who has 40 hectares under wheat and 60 hectares under maize. On winter wheat production, Eng Magombo said, there will be continued power supply to farmers so that they realise the full wheat production this season.
She applauded the agriculture sector for advance planning that resulted in formation of a taskforce to look into the winter wheat cropping season to ensure sufficient energy.
“Energy is not just power but also fuel. And we have clusters within regions where farmers and energy supplier take consistently and they ensure that there is sufficient energy to ensure that we meet our target for winter crop.
“We are happy to assure you that for the next three months when you require energy for this this winter wheat crop, we shall prioritize the winter wheat farmers so that they have power.
“We are of the belief that the land is where we will get production to reduce all the other challenges we are facing,” said Eng Magombo.
She also called on farmers to invest in other renewable energy sources adding that Government has put in place incentives like free duty on solar equipment brought in by the farmer.
“Farmers are being called upon to start investing in renewable energy, we need to see solar pumps complimenting Zesa lines. Once you install solar power, you will be independent and won’t be paying Zesa.
“Farmers should start considering renewable energy and Government has put in place structures so that you bring your solar equipment duty free and have a lot of incentives.
“We are working on a fund to assist farmers invest in renewable energy. As Government we will continue to make sure we have adequate energy to meet the needs of the country so that we are able to continue assisting in production to feed our nation,” said Eng Magombo.