ZESA blames copper cables theft on govt policy

The government has been accused of perpetuating the theft of electricity copper cables around the country through the issuance of copper dealership licenses and copper export licenses.

ZESA General Manager Loss Control, Festo Madembo made the remarks during a stakeholders meeting organised by the power company in Bulawayo, Thursday.

In 2022, the government amended the Copper Amendment Act which raised the minimum sentence for illegal possession of copper from two years to a mandatory 10 years.

Madembo said the company is worried about why the government is issuing copper licences when the country has not been mining copper for the past three years.  

“According to reports, copper mines are now deep and the quality is very poor resulting in great demand. This is what is driving unscrupulous people to vandalise our copper from national infrastructure. Zimbabwe’s copper mine was shut down about twenty-three years ago,” he said.

“We have the Ministry of Home Affairs which is issuing copper dealership licenses to non-manufacturing and non-copper mining companies. These may be scrap dealers. Some of these people turn out to vandalize our property. How can we have a copper dealership in a country that doesn’t mine copper.

“We also have the Ministry of Industry and Commerce issue copper export licenses to individuals to export copper that is not being mined in the country. We are saying as ZESA why we issue these dealerships and licenses. These two ministries are issuing vandalism.”

Madembo said the growth of demand for copper has been fuelled by the advent of electric vehicles, wind technology and solar technology. 

“The government has inconsistent policies that are perpetuating this. These vandals then export copper to South Africa. According to the records that we obtained from ZIMRA between 2017 and 2022, 18,4 metric tonnes of copper were exported to South Africa and between the same period we lost close to a thousand transformers due to vandalism,” Madembo said. 

“There are companies in South Africa that manufacture copper coils which are required for transformer manufacturing. We have a local subsidiary company that manufactures transformers. They queue for forex at RBZ and purchase copper coils from South Africa which would have been stolen from Zimbabwe, so basically, we are buying our own copper.”

Madembo said in 2021 the company manufactured 281 transformers and during the same year, 288 transformers were stolen. 

“This is because the government has enabled copper dealership licensing and export licensing which basically licenses vandalism. As communities, we have the mandate to look out for thieves. These are our brothers and sisters. We must report these cases when we know who is responsible. Not speaking out will only perpetuate more corruption,” he said.

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