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Umalayitsha causes blackout with 600kg copper cables ‘theft’

By Mashudu Netsianda

An umalayitsha allegedly ganged up with two accomplices and pulled down 640kgs of overhead copper conductors worth more than $200 000 from a Zesa line in Binga resulting in a power blackout in some parts of the district.

They loaded the copper cables into their South African registered Toyota Quantum before the vehicle was intercepted the following day at a fuel queue at Cross Dete leading to the recovery of the loot.

This emerged when Lenos Sithole (41) of Magwegwe North suburb approached the High Court seeking bail pending trial. He is facing charges of cutting and interfering with apparatus for generation, transmission, distribution or supply of electricity in violation of the Electricity Act.

Sithole, through his lawyers Tanaka Law Chambers, filed an application for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as respondent.

In his bail statement, Sithole is denying the charges, arguing that there was no evidence linking him to the alleged offence.

Sithole said he was only implicated by one Insurance Nhongo who was arrested at the scene by virtue of being the authorised driver as shown on the vehicle’s temporary import permit (TIP).

“There is no eye witness to state that indeed I travelled to and from Binga in the vehicle in question. I was heavily assaulted by police officers who arrested me while at my home,” he said.

“I met one Insurance Nhongo for the first time in prison and police are misleading the court by stating that I was at Cross Dete and also participated in the alleged crime which took place in Binga as I was never there.”

Sithole said the only thing that links him to the offence is the TIP which is always in his passport as per Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) requirements.

“Police officers are only assuming that I was in the vehicle because of the TIP and my passport and nothing else. There was no identification parade, not even a single witness who can safely say I was present at the crime scene save for inadmissible confession from Nhongo,” he argued.

Sithole said there were no compelling reasons warranting his continued detention pending trial.

He said fears by the State that if released on bail, he was likely to abscond due to the gravity of the offence, which attracts a mandatory 10-year prison term upon conviction, were unfounded.

“I was born in this country and have lived in this country for the better part of my life. I do not have the means and ability to escape the jurisdiction beyond the reach of law enforcement agents, and I am of fixed abode,” said Sithole.

He said he is a proper candidate for bail, arguing that the State has no strong case.

Sithole offered to pay $1 000 bail and to report once a week at Bulawayo Central Police Station as well as reside at his given address until the matter is finalised.

Mrs Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda who is representing the State, opposed the application, arguing there was overwhelming evidence against Sithole.

She said if released on bail, the applicant was likely to abscond trial.

“In casu, applicant has shown propensity to abscond. He was implicated by his co-accused who has since been convicted. As an indication that applicant is a flight risk upon arrest he fled and was only caught in Bulawayo after several raids,” said Mrs Ndlovu-Sibanda.

“Hence it is not bald assertion that applicant will flee as he had already given indications of his intentions. Wherefore, the respondent prays that the application be dismissed.”

According to court papers, on January 10 this year shortly after 7.30pm, Sithole, Nhongo and their accomplices still at large, drove to Binga in a South Africa registered Toyota Quantum. Upon arrival, they allegedly cut overhead copper conductors using a bolt cutter and loaded the cables into their vehicle and drove off.

The following day at around 7.30am, Zesa employees discovered that there was a power outage around Binga area. Upon investigations they discovered that part of the overhead copper conductors had been cut off along a turn off leading to the Binga District Development Fund (DDF) depot.

A report was made to the police and investigations were conducted.

Police intercepted the vehicle at a service station at Cross Dete and Sithole and his other accomplices managed to run away. Nhongo was however, arrested at the scene and 33 rolls of the stolen cables worth $209 717,10 were found in the vehicle.

Nhongo implicated Sithole leading to his arrest at his house in Bulawayo. The Chronicle