BY RICHARD MUPONDE
TWO men, who were part of a syndicate that stole copper wire and conductors in Hwange, were on Friday last week sentenced to a mandatory 10-year jail term each by Hwange regional magistrate Collet Ncube.
Talent Tamanikwa Mukomberanwa (37) and Cashion Tshuma (40) of Lobengula West and Mpopoma respectively, both pirate taxi drivers had denied the charge, but were convicted due to overwhelming evidence provided by the State.
Prosecutor Memory Munsaka told the court that the complainant in the case was Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) represented by Arnold Chikoore.
On July 26, a security team comprising HCCL security and Constable Ezra Saukani of the Zimbabwe Republic Police Hwange were on patrol when they received a
phone call from a HCCL systems’ controller that electricity had tripped at Chilota, along the Zambezi power line.
The team headed for the area to investigate the cause of the power outage. Upon arrival, they spotted a vehicle parked by the roadside with its lights off.
The vehicle drove off as they approached it, but the team took down its registration number.
They, however, failed to establish the cause of the power outage since the power line in the area was intact. The following morning, the team learnt that
copper conductors had been stolen in Chilota where they had found the parked car.
At around 11pm, the patrol team then went to Chilota with an armed police officer and they came across the same vehicle heading towards the Bulawayo-Victoria
Falls Highway and trailed it. On realising that they were being followed, the driver of the vehicle increased speed with the patrol team in hot pursuit.
At Chilota, the cable thieves stopped the car and jumped off.
A warning shot was fired, but they continued fleeing.
The team searched the vehicle and discovered 33 rolls of copper conductors weighing 460kg, two bolt cutters, two small axes, three pairs of insulation gloves,
one claw hammer and a small digital scale.
Investigations led to the arrest of the pair.
The convicts in their defence said they sped off from the HCCL security and police vehicle because they thought they were armed robbers.
They also stated that they fled because the officers were not wearing reflectors, but could not explain why they never reported to the police after abandoning
Power utility, Zesa has of late witnessed a spike in vandalism of its equipment by cable thieves.
Last year alone, Zesa lost US$5 million due to vandalism of infrastructure and primarily theft of copper cables, prompting authorities to introduce drones to
help fight the scourge.