A Bulawayo man who plunged Kamativi in Hwange district into darkness after vandalising an electricity transmission transformer has been jailed for an effective 9 years.
The community of Kamativi last week woke up to discover that they had no power which subsequently affected the supply of water to the former tin producing town.
The mining town has over the years been grappling with the shortage of water with people resorting to unprotected sources before supplies were restored by Zinwa.
The vandalism of ZESA infrastructure such as transformers and copper cables has been on the rise with the power utility indicating that it requires over US$6 million to replace stolen equipment.
Thieves mostly target the copper components and oil inside the transformer which have a ready illegal market locally and regionally.
Themba Nyathi (39) of 175 Pelandaba in Bulawayo was convicted by Hwange Regional magistrate, Collet Ncube for contravening section 60 of the Electricity Act which relates to ‘cuts, damages, destroys or interferes with any apparatus for generating, transmitting or supply of electricity’.
According to the state led by Charlene Gorerino on 22 January at around 2 am police received a tip-off that there were two men who had removed a transformer from the electricity poles and were now vandalising it.
Acting on the information, police proceeded to the said area and found Nyathi with his accomplice, Nkosilathi Ncube dismantling the transformer using some spanners and a bolt cutter.
Upon seeing the police, the two ran away but Nyathi was not fast enough and was apprehended a few metres from the scene while his accomplice escaped. He still remains at large.
A search of the crime scene was conducted leading to the recovery of a size 17 drop forged spanner, 24-inch CRV bolt cutter, INCCO hacksaw, 10 inch 250 steel shifting spanner, 20.6m rope and an Itel smartphone.
These items together with the dismantled transformer were taken to the Kamativi police station and produced in court as exhibits.
The total value of the damaged transformer is ZWL$1.1 million.
Meanwhile, police are appealing for assistance in apprehending people who vandalised another transformer in Nyamandlovu.
“We are worried about the vandalism of ZESA transformers. We have realised that criminals vandalise these transformers with a view to get some copper components as it looks like there is a ready market somewhere. There are also people who are stealing copper cables. We recently arrested a man who vandalised a transformer in Kamativi while his accomplice escaped. We are also appealing to members of public to assist with information leading to the arrest of thieves that vandalised a transformer in Nyamandlovu on 20 January. We would like to implore the public to also report to their nearest police station people who engage in illegal copper dealings,” said Matebeleland North provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Glory Banda.
He said the vandalism of electricity infrastructure was affecting social amenities such as access to water and health care.
He said the police in collaboration with ZESA were going to embark on a joint operation coupled with awareness campaigns to stem out vandalism of ZESA infrastructure.