By Mashudu Netsianda / Mkhululi Ncube
Police in Bulawayo have arrested two serial copper cables thieves after using sniffer dogs to fish the two men out of a manhole while busy cutting TelOne cables.
One of the suspects has since appeared in court and was sentenced to 70 years in jail over the US$20 000 copper theft case.
The two men were moving around the city’s suburbs stealing copper cables from TelOne underground inspection and maintenance manholes.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said the two men, Pardon Sibanda (35) and Bishop Muleya (33) both of Bellevue suburb were arrested last week after they were caught stealing the cables in Burnside. “We arrested two suspects in Hillside area for destroying the material used for telecommunications. This was after our officers who were on patrol in Hillside area on May 2 at around 8PM spotted a car, Honda Fit parked in a secluded area,” he said.
Insp Ncube said when a police officer got closer to the car, it sped off.
“On arrival at the scene, police were led to a TelOne manhole by sniffer dogs and found Pardon Sibanda hiding. He jumped out of the hole and tried to flee but he was apprehended,” he said.
Police also arrested Muleya who was hiding in the bush near the manhole and they recovered a hacksaw, hammer and pair of pliers.
Insp Ncube said the two men stole 231 metres of copper cables on seven different occasions.
Sibanda was on Friday convicted by Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr Mark Dzira of cutting, damaging and removing telecommunication lines belonging to a telecommunication licencee in violation of a section of the Postal and Telecommunication Act.
He was sentenced to 70 years in jail of which 20 years were suspended for five years on condition that he does not within that period commit a similar offence.
Sibanda will therefore serve an effective 50 years imprisonment.
Prosecuting, Mr Simbarashe Manyiwa said between February and April this year, the accused person hatched a plan to steal TelOne copper cables.
On February 16 during the night, Sibanda proceeded to Donnington industrial area in Bulawayo where he forced open a lid covering TelOne manhole, gained entry and cut two metres of underground copper cables and left unnoticed. The court heard that a week later, Sibanda went to an area at corner North Leach and Wellington Drive in Bellevue.
“On February 27 during the night, the accused person forced open a TelOne manhole to gain entry and cut two metres of copper cables and left,” said Mr Manyiwa.
The following day, Sibanda went to Barham Green suburb where he cut three metres of underground copper cables before proceeding to Greenhill and stole another three metres of wire from the underground cable chambers.
“On March 7, the accused person went to Balfour Road near Siyepambili Drive flyover in West Sommerton in Bulawayo and stole another five metres of underground copper cables. On April 5 during the night, Sibanda went to Nketa Drive in Emganwini where he stole half a metre of underground copper cables,” said Mr Manyiwa.
The court heard that on April 12 at night, Sibanda proceeded to Hillside suburb where he forced open a TelOne manhole, got in and cut five metres of underground copper cables and went unnoticed.
On May 2 at night, Sibanda was arrested together with an accomplice while trying to steal copper cables in Burnside.
On being quizzed by police he revealed that he committed a series of similar offences and led investigators to the scenes of crime. The value of the stolen property is US$27 414 and nothing was recovered.
Meanwhile, Zesa, through its subsidiary the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), has invited whistle-blowers to curb the upsurge in vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure witnessed in the last few months. The Chronicle