Prosper Ndlovu Bulawayo Bureau
ZESA workers have a hand in the rampant vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure which has cost the country millions of dollars and led to disruption of efficient power transmission across the country, President Mnangagwa said on Thurs- day.
The power utility needs at least US$40 million to replace over 4 000 transformers that have been vandalised across the country.
It has also lost up to 1 000 kilometres of power lines to cable thieves, according to recent reports.
Responding to a question on the matter during a plenary session at the ongoing 2019 ZimTrade Annual Exporters’ Conference in Bulawayo, President Mnangagwa said Government was disturbed by reports of power transmission disruptions linked to vandalism of electricity infrastructure and the attendant negative impact on ordinary people and business operations.
“We are convinced that those who steal transformers either work for Zesa or are related to Zesa workers because you need some degree of information and technology to steal these transformers, and you must know that there is some danger involved,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Transformers are being stolen countrywide and we need to find a way to stop this stealing.”
President Mnangagwa said Government came up with propositions on how to tackle the issue of transformers at two levels.
First, he said, the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services had been tasked with developing applications or technology to protect the transformers.
This includes exploring avenues of using technology devices such as drones to monitor electricity infrastructure.
President Mnangagwa said research was also being done on the usage of modern transformers in advanced economies that cannot be vandalised, which could be embraced locally.
He said there was need to amend the laws and come up with deterrent sentences against those who vandalise electricity infrastructure.
President Mnangagwa challenged Zesa to explain public concerns over delays in repair of transformers that taken away for repairs and maintenance, but take ages to be reinstalled.
He said he will be officiating at the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) graduation today where he has been briefed that the university will showcase a new transformer model that he hoped would assist the country in view of the vandalism problem.
Zesa has been experiencing increased incidents of vandalism, some of which have claimed lives as thieves attempt to drain transformer oil or cut copper cable conductors.
Recently, Cabinet expressed concern over vandalism of Zesa infrastructure and put into spotlight the effectiveness of the 10-year mandatory sentence for those convicted, with some stakeholders suggesting a 20-year sentence.