By Mashudu Netsianda
ZESA Holdings is seeking a review of the mandatory sentence for criminals convicted for stealing power cables and transformers from 10 to 30 years to curb the vice that is prejudicing the power utility of more than US$2 million annually.
The parastatal is now in the process of replacing copper cables with aluminium.
Zesa requires more than US$14 million to procure intruder detection gadgets to fight the scourge that continues to bleed the power utility.
This comes as police in Bulawayo have smashed a well organised copper theft racket, arresting two suspects and recovering 150kg of overheard copper conductors worth US$12 000.
The latest arrest brings to four, the total number of suspects nabbed within the same weeks as police step up efforts in the fight against rampant copper theft in Bulawayo and its vicinity.
Thieves are taking advantage of the 6pm to 6am curfew to steal copper cables.
A number of suburbs in the city including one of the largest referral health institutions in the country – Mpilo Central Hospital – often go for weeks without electricity following theft of cables.
Simon Tapfuma (32) of Magwegwe and Police Ncube (25) of Lobengula West were arrested on Sunday in the early morning hours while their two accomplices are still at large. Tapfuma and Ncube, who were part of a group of five suspects, were arrested when detectives caught them red-handed, leading to the recovery of the loot. The tools used in the commission of the offence were, however, not recovered.
Police impounded the suspects’ vehicle, a Toyota Hiace kombi, which was carrying the stolen cables.
The suspects were targeting areas around Mpopoma, Magwegwe, Njube and Lobengula suburbs.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube confirmed the arrests yesterday, saying investigations were ongoing.
“We arrested two suspects whom we suspect operated as a syndicate. Our officers from the CID MFFU (Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit) received information that the suspects who were using an orange Toyota Hiace registration number ACL 4787 were in possession of stolen overhear copper conductors,” he said.
The cables belong to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution (ZETDC), a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings.
“The detectives reacted to the information and located the vehicle and the suspects in the bush in Pelandaba West.”
Insp Ncube said upon spotting the detectives, the five men disembarked from their vehicle and took to their heels abandoning their car in the bush.
Police pursued the suspects and managed to catch up with Ncube and Tapfuma leading to their arrest.
“We recovered six rolls of overheard copper conductors valued at US$12 000 weighing about 150kg hidden inside their kombi. Investigations revealed that the suspects pulled down the cables on Sunday at around 1AM at Congo Beerhall in Mpopoma,” said Insp Ncube.
Upon arrest, the two suspects led detectives to the scene. The suspects are linked to a series of copper theft cases which occurred in Mpopoma, Magwegwe, Njube and Lobengula suburbs. The Herald.