DARING thieves have stolen copper cables used in transmission of electricity by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) to the State House in Bulawayo, leaving the facility in the dark.
Bulawayo has been experiencing an increase in thefts of copper cables, a crime that has continuously plunged the city into darkness. Suburbs located at the periphery of the city have been affected the most, with reports of the copper cables thefts being made almost daily.
Initially, the thieves reportedly targeted underground cables on the outskirts of the city but have since moved to residential suburbs targeting overhead cables.
Police have confirmed the State House incident, saying the rest of the city was under siege from cable thieves who operate as a syndicate. The cables are believed to be smuggled to neighbouring countries.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube confirmed the development yesterday.
“I can confirm that we are receiving an increase in the number of reports of copper cable theft. We are appealing to members of the public to assist police with information that might lead to the arrest of the suspects,” Ncube said.
“Theft of cables are affecting all operations in the city. Some have affected police stations, including the State House.
“On January 20, we received a report of theft of 225m x 35mm copper cables in the Donnington area, and another one of 1 400m x25mm of overhead copper cable conductors in Sauerstown and Hillside on Sunday.”
The State House power outage is unlikely to have inconvenienced anyone, though. Built by colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 1897 as his personal residence, the Bulawayo State House is used as the official Bulawayo residence for the President of Zimbabwe, although former President Robert Mugabe rarely used it.
It was left in a state of disrepair by 2011 due to neglect which was so bad that even the toilets were reported to have been broken.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo-based organisation Habakkuk Trust recently launched a documentary on copper cable thefts and power cuts, highlighting lived experiences of Bulawayo residents and responses from the power utility company and the law enforcement agency.
In most instances, residents have been forced to fork out funds to buy aluminium cables and conductors to replace the stolen copper cables as the ZESA has indicated that it is under-resourced.
ZESA spokesperson George Manyaya recently said that the power utility required over US$6 million to replace stolen equipment.
Manyaya said ZESA requires more than US$14 million to procure intruder detection gadgets to fight the scourge that continue to bleed the power utility.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage secretary Aaron Nhepera recently told Parliament that a Copper Control Amendment Bill would be crafted to impose a mandatory 10-year jail term for vandalism of cables.
Last year, Government suspended the issuance of licences for dealing in scrap copper pending the amendment of the Copper Act, which will among other issues contain stiffer penalties of up to 10 years and above for those illegally dealing in copper or caught stealing it.
Vehicles that will be used to transport stolen copper will also be impounded.