Zesa pleads for assistance

Zesa power lines

THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) has promised to reimburse consumers who contribute towards the refurbishment of vandalised infrastructure amid escalating incidents of theft of copper cables which has worsened power outages.

Many residents in Bulawayo have been plunged into darkness for prolonged periods due to theft of copper cables and vandalism of transformers, with Zesa failing to restore power timeously.

This was revealed by Zesa subsidiary — Western Region Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) — acting general manager Lloyd Jaji during a virtual discussion organised by the National Consumer Rights Association.

Jaji told participants in the meeting that if clients have no electricity due to vandalism of transformers or stolen cables they can contribute to buy the required material.

“Once they have bought and we have put in the grid we then reimburse them in terms of electricity units. For them to do so they must first visit our offices so that they are informed of how it is supposed to be done and fill in forms,” Jaji said.

“Thereafter they go ahead and buy and then surrender the material to us to install and then we reimburse through units.”

Jaji said copper is more expensive than aluminium that is why thieves target it.

He said once they installed aluminium it would not be stolen but the problem could continue if there were some areas along the grid that had copper cables.

He said they wanted to replace all the copper cables with aluminium cables to curb incidents of thefts.

Jaji said they had challenges acquiring adequate financial resources to procure the material required to rehabilitate the electricity infrastructure.

“We are low on resources which results in us getting conductors or transformers in small quantities and far apart at a rate that is much slower than the rate at which the transformers are vandalised or the copper is stolen and that is actually what creates the gap,” Jaji said.

“Clients can wait until we get a replacement transformer or as we have explained to some of the clients, if they have the capacity they can buy the transformer just like we do with the clients who buy the conductors to replace the stolen cables in the same manner.”

Jaji said they wre expanding  electricity supply to rural areas but the programme was not progressing well because the bulk of materials needed for network expansion was going towards the  replacement of those that would have been stolen.

“In addition, we have limited funds to source materials hence the slow rate of electrification. In this regard we came up with the customer supplied materials scheme where residents, who want to expedite their connections, optionally contribute to their network expansion and we reimburse for costs on the high voltage with electricity units,” Jaji said.

“In the meantime for future developments, we are working to have part of the cost of expansion included in the cost of the residential stands just like road, sewer, water etc or the land developer builds the infrastructure then recover costs from the sale of stands.  For the existing backlog of connections we have found a partner to work with in clearing the backlog in the next few years starting next year.”

This came at a time when Zesa revealed that it needed at least US$17 million per month to import power to keep lights on, amid rolling electricity outages lasting several hours.

Zesa said it was engaged in negotiations with power utilities in neighbouring countries to augment local supply.

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