Fortious Nhambura Features Writer
Thursday, March 29, 2012 started like any other normal day for Ms Constance Sinachinge. She woke up early that chilly morning, did her household chores and left for work as usual. Unbeknown to her that it would turn up to be the worst day in
This is the day Zesa’s negligence robbed her of a son, a day when her 10-year-old boy, Takudzwa Nyandoro, was electrocuted by exposed cables while playing with his brother.
Despite several representations from residents to Zesa about the danger posed by live wires, the power utility took over three months to respond, culminating in the tragedy.
So when the young mother said, “I will never forgive Zesa,” she was feeling the pain of a heartbreaking loss and it was understandable that she was disgusted with Zesa’s inept behaviour. These were the signs of extreme pain.
Her beautiful flower had been taken away.
Takudzwa, a Grade Four pupil at ZRP Tomlinson Depot Primary School, later died of the burns at Parirenyatwa Hospital and was buried at Granville Cemetery. Mrs Sinachinge is among several people who have been robbed of their beloved ones by Zesa’s negligence and will carry the burden of losing their loved ones.
“No Zesa officials attended the burial or offer a public apology. I felt an apology would be more appropriate and important than compensation because money will not bring my son back to me,” she said.
Takudzwa’s aunt, Ms Eresia Govha, said Zesa later agreed to reimburse the family all expenses incurred in the purchase of coffin, provision of transport and US$300 to cover other funeral expenses after a “long argument”.
“We have since approached a family lawyer for advice on how the power utility could be made to compensate for Takudzwa’s death,” she said.
The death of Takudzwa is one of many cases of similar mishaps by the power utility company.
The public is disgusted and has castigated Zesa, saying time has come for the parastatal to do their work properly and stop risking people’s lives.
Mr Tinotenda Mudonhi of Mabvuku said Zesa should not only compensate Takudzwa’s family but in his honour, move to cover all naked cables.
“This is sheer negligence of duty by Zesa employees. It is a warning for the utility to start monitoring its workers. They should put warning signs or barricade dangerous sites like the one that claimed Takudzwa’s life. No compensation will ever bring back a lost life.
“In fact, the workers who left the cables naked should be charged with murder. Zesa should know better. Someone’s child has died and he is irreplaceable,” said Mr Mudonhi.
He said as an admission of guilt, the utility must now move to repair and cover all exposed power cables.
Some residents said Zesa had no excuse for shoddy work as consumers were paying for power in hard currencies.
“It is as if Zesa cannot do right with anything these days. It is not only depriving people electricity but also exposing them to danger.
“The latest bungling by the power utility resulted in the death of a young innocent boy. His death shows how negligent the company has become.
“Surely how can they take three months to secure and cover power cables in a residential area? This has happened once too many”, said Charlotte Jimu of Dzivarasekwa.
She said open pits and exposed cables is now a common site these days.
A Chitungwiza resident, Ms Gelly Maruta, accused workers at the power utility of taking people for granted.
“When I tried to report exposed cables in our area to Zesa authorities in Makoni, their phones went unanswered for long periods.
“When someone eventually picked up the phone the voice on the other side lazily told me that someone would come to attend to the problem. One and half months have lapsed and still the cables are lying there uncovered and pose extreme danger to our children.”
Power engineering experts say even when these cables are insulated they still pose danger to the public and are supposed to be underground.
They argue that Zesa was accountable for these tragedies and other similar mishaps in the past.
Other areas where open Zesa cables have been seen include Kuwadzana 2 shops where they have remained exposed for more than two years.
In Highfield, a number of sites with open cables have been identified along Willowvale Road.
Unfortunately, the exposed cables are found in the open spaces less than 20 metres from houses and are most frequented by children watering vegetable gardens in the area.
Another place is Nettleton Primary School in Braeside, Harare, where cables have been in the open for a long time.
Last year, a kombi conductor died while a pregnant woman was electrocuted after they fell into a trench while fighting over R5 at the corner of Harare South and Cripps Road, triggering a huge explosion.
Although Zesa is on record as saying that the bulk of its underground power cables have outlived their lifespan of 25 years, this is no excuse for the utility to leave them exposed.
Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira says temporary joints on underground cables posed a significant danger to people but still they do not make effort to cover them.
Gwasira was quoted as saying “. . . in the absence of full kits, we use temporary joints and we do not cover the trenches completely.
“As the repairs are temporary, they (workers) have to follow up on them expeditiously and hence they could not properly cover ditches and trenches.”
But should this be at the expense of the people. Why not put warning signs on the area.
To cover their back, the Zesa this week began flighting adverts urging the public to report naked or low-lying cables but residents say reports of such cases were never taken seriously.
A Chitungwiza resident, Ms Gelly Maruta, accused workers at the power utility of taking the people for granted.
“Safety should be a priority. Zesa must adopt a serious safety culture,” she said.
Until Zesa come up with a lasting solution to this problem, the public remain in danger.