Comment: Residents must fight vandalism

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Zesa Holdings should take strong measures to secure power equipment which is being constantly vandalised.

Reports of vandalism on Zesa power equipment have become a daily occurrence and it is the duty of the power utility to come up with a long-term plan to stop this vandalism.

While power supply is critical to the growth of industry and the revival of the economy, Zesa has not been able to meet demand for a constant supply of electricity.

Other challenges the power utility has to deal with include lack of skilled manpower and antiquated equipment and machinery.

The culture of vandalism has taken root in most sectors of the economy and organisations like the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and TelOne have lost a lot of vital and expensive equipment to theft.

Vandalism generally denotes a sick economy, bleeding for serious capital injection. It also indicates high unemployment levels which have resulted in people stripping down anything for sale to make a living.

Stiff sentences may not be the exact solution, so there is really need for a multi-pronged approach to deal with the growing culture of vandalism.

The first step should be at individual level.

We know who these people are because they come from our own homes and their criminal transactions take place from our homes.

An idea would be to empower residents by bringing them to be owners of the infrastructure in their localities — to make them feel true possession of the equipment and hence get them to actively protect the transformers and other equipment against vandalism.

It is not disputed not all vandalism takes place in the middle of the night. There are instances where residents watch while Zesa, TelOne or NRZ infrastructure is vandalised in broad daylight.

That is the culture that needs to be dealt with. Residents should feel empowered to stop vandalism of infrastructure that serves them.

Tynwald North residents recently collected money from all property owners to secure two power transformers located in their suburb in the Westgate area.

This action was prompted by theft of transformer oil that blacked out the entire neighbourhood for more than two weeks.

The two transformers are now secured inside wrought iron bars welded around them, making it practically impossible for thieves and vandals to gain access.

The residents have also established a neighbourhood watch committee that patrols the area at night to ensure safety of other properties in the area.

Recently, magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi sentenced one Ephraim Chibvongodze to a 10-year prison term for contravening Section 60 (3) (b) of the Electricity Amendment Act Chapter 13:19, after he cut Zesa cables worth $300 at their family home.

The magistrate explained in his judgment that his hands were tied and that he had to apply a mandatory sentence as required by law.

We however feel that there is a need for a campaign around vandalism that will educate on the long-term benefits of securing power and telephone line infrastructure.

Power cuts being experienced in some parts of Zimbabwe are being caused by infrastructural vandalism.

Vandalised power networks are also a danger to the general public as live wires are sometimes left exposed risking lives, especially of young children.

Residents are the people that hold the key to curbing this problem by taking a proactive approach to vandalism and theft.