Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority’s ability to effectively supply electricity to businesses and residents continues to be seriously hamstrung following reports that more than 2 200 transformers were stolen from sites dotted across the country.
The power utility that has been failing to supply power due to antiquated power generation plant and equipment at its thermal stations and fast dwindling water levels at Kariba South, was recently saved by Government that agreed to help it mobilise money to import electricity from South Africa’s Eskom.
In an interview, Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi said the vandalism which cuts across all Zesa regions — Northern, Western, Harare, Southern and Eastern Regions — presents a big challenge as it means Zesa has to literary guard all transformers across the country.
Northern Region, which is made up of the three Mashonaland provinces, leads the pack with 927 transformers having been stolen or vandalised.
Western Region, which houses the Matabeleland provinces has lost 625, while Harare has lost 575, with 94 having been lost in the Southern Region.
Zesa is thus looking for the latest technology that can deter the vandals but in the meantime the minister appealed to the general populace to take a stand against the vandals and report any suspected vandalism to the police.
Reports say cable thieves take advantage of power outages to steel the components that they sell to mainly scrape metal dealers, who export it or sell it to local steel makers.
If unchecked, Minister Chasi said the practice will undermine any investment that goes into power generation as the power will not be able to reach the intended users in the absence of transformers.
“If you look at the statistics, you will realise that it’s spread nationally and this presents a huge challenge in terms of curbing the vice,” said Minister Chasi.
“At Government level, we are obviously looking at technologies that can be used to deter this kind of economic sabotage, but before we register success on that front, there is need for the people of Zimbabwe to take a position and say we can’t allow this to continue by reporting all perpetrators.
“Because at this rate, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in generation, if we don’t have transformers or we continue to lose them like this, then generation investment will not count for anything.
“I think it is also incumbent on us to begin to seriously investigate whether this is organised crime or whether it’s coordinated and, if so, by who,” he said.
In addition to the transformers, the power utility is also said to have lost more than 1 000km of power conductor lines.
The vandalism of Zesa infrastructure continues unabated despite a seemingly deterrent 10-year jail term for convicted offenders.
In August, Zesa removed copper cables along the grid that connects Bulawayo and the border town of Plumtree as the area had become susceptible to thieves who were mainly targeting copper cables.
Last year the power utility also sent out tenders inviting suppliers of industrial grade drone monitors which it said would be used for surveillance on the grid and other Zesa equipment.
Theft of power equipment is not unique to Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s Eskom has also fallen victim, with thieves targeting steel components and thus bringing down electricity pylons.
As part of measures to curb the vice, Eskom has responded by replacing damaged lattice towers with mono poles as part of phasing out infrastructure that is prone to thieves.