BULAWAYO- The critical work of police and prison services in Bulawayo’s dormitory township of Ntabazinduna has been severely affected by the recent theft of electricity cables, the Daily News can report.
This comes after some daring thieves stole about eight kilometres worth of copper cables in the township, in a shocking act which left more than 1 000 residents, as well as police and prison services in the lurch.
Ntabazinduna is situated about 30 kilometres outside Bulawayo, along the Harare road, and houses the training headquarters of both the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
The net result of the brazen thefts is that it has left the township without both electricity and running water for nearly three months — as water pumps require power to function.
“As residents of Ntabazinduna, we call upon the authorities to investigate the way in which power cables are being stolen on that magnitude.
“Imagine life without running water for our toilets … We are now fearing an outbreak of cholera. “Many people are now resorting to the bucket system to flush waste, while some are now using the bush, something which we all know is not healthy,” a senior prisons official said. Apart from the ZRP and ZPCS, Ntabazinduna also has a thriving business community, as well as the popular David Livingstone High School.
Sources told the Daily News yesterday that the negative effects of the power outages had now reached Mbembezi Township — which is a further 40 kilometres north of the Bulawayo-Harare highway.
The fears of imminent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera had been heightened by a dysfunctional sewerage system which local residents say needs urgent attention.
“We are in big trouble, as this is not normal. Yesterday (Wednesday), we had an all stakeholders meeting in Bulawayo where this issue was the main agenda. “Everyone is worried because this may soon turn into a disaster especially in the absence of water.
“As long as there is no Zesa we won’t be able to get running water into our taps because the pumping system is not functioning,” Ntabazinduna ward 5 councillor Bekithemba Qongo told the Daily News.
Qongo also said while Zesa had been replacing stolen cables, thieves were striking harder as evidenced by the eight-kilometre stretch of wire which they recently stole. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has introduced stiffer penalties to deter against the theft of electricity cables and transformers, which has contributed significantly to power outages.
It now carries a mandatory 10-year-sentence on those convicted of stealing electricity equipment. While authorities say the country has not had load shedding for the past three years, many areas have gone for weeks without power due to vandalism of Zesa equipment.
So bad has the situation become that the power utility recently invited whistleblowers in a desperate attempt to curb the vandalism of its equipment.
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the development.
“I can confirm that there has been a lot of theft of copper cables around that area. The cables were stolen around December last year and the problem was fixed but they (suspected thieves) came back on February 2. “There is a surge of such crimes. However, police have arrested various gangs, with some of them being recently arrested in Beitbridge while trying to cross to South Africa.
“We have also carried out many arrests at roadblocks, involving people carrying hordes of stolen copper cables. We urge people to report such cases to the police,” Charamba said.