ZIMBABWE’S power utility, Zesa Holdings Limited, says vandalism of vital electricity assets has reached catastrophic levels, with five to eight transformers being destroyed weekly.
The destruction could explain why rolling blackouts have returned to haunt both domestic and industrial consumers.
Authorities have already announced serious cutbacks to 2022 gross domestic product growth projections, after industries indicated operations had suffered.
Vandalism has cost the power utility US$4,17 million this year alone, according to official statistics.
The power giant has lost about US$13 million to vandalism since 2020, according to Zesa Holdings loss control technical manager, Charles Mahlanze.
In 2020, the power utility lost property valued at US$4,39 million.
The figure was US$4,41 million last year, according to official statistics.
"Vandalism has reached unprecedented levels,” the Zesa official said.
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“(We are) losing between five and eight transformers a week nationally and five cases or more (of conductor vandalism) for Bulawayo," said Mahlanze during a presentation made at the Zimbabwe Institute of Foundries (ZIF) metal and casting indaba last week.
"Copper conductor network is about 600km out of the total network of 130 000km. The major targets of vandalism are transformers, copper conductors and copper cables. The major markets for the vandalised copper is South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique en-route to China and Europe."
Referring to a government blueprint projecting that Zimbabwe will reach upper-middle-income status by 2030 he said: “Generally vandalism is on the increase and vandals are using sophisticated methods of operating undetected. Vandalism is a menace affecting all sectors of the economy and a serious threat to Vision 2030.”
Mahlanze urged Zimbabweans to declare war on economic saboteurs and collaborate with Zesa loss control officials to fight the scourge of vandalism.
He hoped that ZIF would assist in lobbying for the banning of scrap metal exports in favour of beneficiation.
Mahlanze expressed Zesa’s commitment to reaching out to domestic consumers and industries to help Zimbabwe attain its Vision 2030 goals.
“Power supply is continuously being threatened by generation constraints and vandalism. Efforts are continuously being made to address that with PPAs (power purchase agreements), ZPC (Zimbabwe Power Company) expansions and tariff negotiations,” he said, while noting that load shedding remained the last option that Zesa resorted to to maintain supply and demand balance.
Mahlanze added that strategies being implemented to fight the scourge of vandalism included transformer tacking, joint operations with law enforcement agents, lobbying for watertight legal instruments, as well and campaigning for congruence of policies.
The strategies also comprise banning export of scrap copper as well as scrap metal.
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