President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said the government is crafting legislation to allow law officers to shoot to kill all who will be seen stealing copper cables.He added that if the thieves are caught alive, they will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Copper theft is not a new phenomenon but state companies and market players in Zimbabwe say it has surged in recent years.
It affects the electricity, telecommunications and transport sectors, and each year Zimbabwe’s parastatals spend millions of dollars replacing stolen cables and restoring vandalised infrastructure due to cable theft.
In a recent statement, it was revealed that ZESA, the local power utility, lost US$256 million in stolen materials, additional millions in replacement infrastructure and in security mitigation for the same period.
There is little doubt that copper cable theft has grown into a pandemic in Zimbabwe, particularly for the electricity, telecommunications, and railway parastatals.
Organisations such as Zesa, TelOne, Econet, Telecel, NetOne, and the National Railways of Zimbabwe tell tales of loss of business due to the effects of copper cable theft that has been spreading uncontrolled.
Households too are affected as they are left to spend days without power and sometimes asked to pull resources together for the purchase of copper cables.
It is suspected most of the stolen cables are being smuggled to South Africa and they are then shipped further to countries that use the metal in the construction and manufacturing industries.