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2-week blackout for Hillside suburb

11 Mar 2021 at 06:18hrs | Views
RESIDENTS of Hillside suburb in Bulawayo have gone for almost two weeks without electricity after thieves once again stole nearly 1km of copper cables along Percy Avenue in the suburb.

The incident comes barely two months after thieves stole about 2km of copper cables in the same suburb.

The outage, which has affected 20 homes in the suburb, has also disrupted water supply. Bulawayo has of late been hit by a series of power outages mostly due to copper cables theft, with suburbs such as Hillside, Burnside and Killarney being the worst affected.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is now in the process of replacing copper cables with aluminium ones.

Yesterday, a Chronicle news crew visited the affected suburb and observed ZETDC workers busy replacing the stolen copper cables along Percy Avenue in Hillside.

Residents who spoke to reporters said copper theft cases were rampant in the suburb. Ms Elizabeth Dube said she was now relying on her diesel-powered generator and gas for cooking and lighting as well as pumping water from her borehole.

"The power outage has resulted in a serious water crisis and I am now forced to buy diesel to pump water from the borehole and it is very costly. This fault was reported more than 10 days ago and Zesa has taken long to address the problem. My meat, vegetables and fruits have gone bad because there is no electricty," she said.

Mrs Maria Williams said when the power outage happened last Friday at around 1AM she thought it was just a minor fault.

"When I woke up the following morning, I saw copper cables hanging from pylons and we reported the matter to Zesa," she said.

Mr Alfred Mpofu said thieves were now taking advantage of the power blackout to steal from them at night.

"This is the second time that we are experiencing a prolonged power cut due to copper cables theft. Last year, the thieves pounced on another street and stole cables resulting in us going for five days without electricity," he said.

ZETDC is seeking a review of the sentence for individuals convicted of stealing power cables and transformers from 10 years to 30 years.

Power cables thefts and transformer vandalism is prejudicing Zesa Holdings of more than US$2 million annually.

ZETDC requires more than US$14 million to procure intruder detection gadgets to fight the scourge that continues to bleed the power utility. Bulawayo Progressive Residents' Association (BPRA) co-ordinator Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said they were concerned over rampant theft of copper cables.

"Copper has become an increasingly attractive commodity fuelling huge thefts that leave residents in the dark. The fact that only a few arrests related to copper cables thefts have been effected lead to more thefts," he said.

Mr Ndlovu urged residents in the affected areas to work with police and ZETDC in surveillance and increasing security around power lines. Zesa's acting western region general manager Engineer Lloyd Jaji said they sent a team to replace the stolen copper cables in Hillside suburb.

"We are addressing the power challenges in the affected areas of Hillside. Most of the power outages in the city are a result of copper cables theft," he said. Eng Jaji said they were now in the process of replacing copper cables with aluminum following an increase in copper thefts.

"The major challenge is that whenever we replace copper cables, thieves go and attack another area resulting in a power blackout," he said.

In January, residents in the same suburb including parts of Fourwinds suburb had their power supply disrupted after thieves stole nearly 2km of copper cables along Matopos Road.

In April last year, about 950 metres of copper cables were stolen in Njube resulting the suburb including neighbouring Old Lobengula, Lobengula Extension and Mpopoma going for days without electricity.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said they were investigating several cases of theft of copper cables in the city.

"We are investigating several cases of copper cables theft and it appears thieves are taking advantage of the lockdown to commit crime. We have intensified our night patrols and as police we also urge residents to assist us with information that could lead to the arrest of suspects," he said.

Last May, police in Bulawayo arrested two serial copper cables thieves after using sniffer dogs to fish the two men out of a manhole while busy cutting copper cables.

Zesa Holdings has since invited whistle-blowers to curb the upsurge in vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure witnessed in the last few months.

Source - chroncile
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