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Impose stiff penalties on vandals


Reports of vandalism that plunged Zimbabwe into darkness recently are disappointing.

This is happening at a time when load-shedding has created so many inconveniences both at the domestic and commercial level.

The vandalism of the 330Kv Bindura to Dema high-voltage transmission line resulted in the loss of 150 megawatts in imports from Hidroelectrica De Cahora Bassa of Mozambique.

This is a huge loss considering that many consumers hardly get enough power to meet their day-to-day needs.

Vandalism has been left to escalate over the years as there is not much policing around these high-voltage entities.

It is not unusual to find electricity pylons fallen with transmission lines dangling dangerously along the roads.

There have been reports in the past of children that were electrocuted after stepping on these high-voltage transmission lines, resulting in loss of lives.

Harare, once upon a time, was such a bright city at night but vandalism has reduced it to a dark, scary place where driving has also become a dangerous affair.

Vandalism has to be treated as a social cancer that must be contained. Repairing or replacing the equipment is not the solution for as long as vandalism is not addressed.

But to start with, we have to get this clear: who is responsible for the destructive acts?

There is little doubt that pulling down a pylon carrying high-voltage transmission wires must be an inside job.

Only an insider would know when the wires are out of current or can technically manipulate the system to be able to carry out such criminal dangerous activities.

If this is true, the next question is: what is Zesa doing about it?

With the introduction of the US dollar in the Zimbabwean economy early last year, we would expect the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Zesa, TelOne and other public entities to man their networks and systems more efficiently.

The foreign currency argument no longer holds.

In fact, vandalism in Africa signals a deteriorating economy as citizens plunder anything to eke out a living.

Zambia was one country that was so badly vandalised following a downturn in its economy after the fall of copper prices.

Today, Zambia is on the mend as the economic situation improves.

Today, the mentality of Zambians is so different from about 10 years ago when the plunder of public goods for personal gain was the order of the day.

The culture set in some time back when public telephone booths and cables were destroyed.

Although they have fallen victim to technological extinction, telephone booths back then were a feature marvelled at by visitors from other African countries.

Street name signs were plucked and bus shelters dismantled by scrap metal dealers.

Refuse bins dotted around the city and suburban areas were also vandalised, probably by the same culprits.

Rail tracks and signals were also not spared from vandalism, a situation that caused so many accidents, with lives being claimed.

We need to stop vandalism now.

Stiffer penalties similar to those handed down on cattle rustlers should be considered by the judiciary.

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