GOVERNMENT is moving to amend the Electricity Act in a move that will see anyone caught tampering with electric infrastructure being thrown into jail for 30 years.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday told a post-cabinet media briefing that if approved, the amendments will see stiffer penalties for vandals who have cost the country’s power utility, Zesa Holdings (Zesa), millions of dollars in infrastructure damage.
Zesa has been experiencing increased incidents of vandalism including the theft of transformer oil and copper cable conductors, resulting in the power company incurring huge expenses in replacing the vandalised property, while the impact on business has been astronomic.
To date, more than 927 transformers have either been vandalised or stolen in the Northern Region, 625 in the Western Region, 525 in Harare Region and 94 in the Eastern Region.
“The salient features of the amendments will encompass the following: (a) reviewing the current penalty regime for identified offences in order to make the penalties more deterrent; (b) classifying such offences under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], which governs heinous crimes, including rape and murder; and (c) compelling courts to
impose mandatory sentences, as opposed to the option of fines, which may not be deterrent enough.
“For instance, tampering without lawful excuse with any apparatus for generating, transmitting, distributing or supplying electricity with the result that any supply of electricity is cut off or interrupted, which used to attract an imprisonment of not less than 10 years, will, under the amended law attract not less than 30 years of imprisonment,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
The Information minister said government will, from time to time, review such penalties to make them more deterrent to would-be offenders.
She said Government will also ensure that adequate surveillance machinery is put in place to apprehend offenders, including through installation of electronic gadgets to detect the crimes.
Meanwhile, the cabinet minister also revealed that Government would focus on strengthening power generation at Batoka Hydro Power Plant as well as renewable energy use as generation remains depressed at Kariba Power Station.
“Focus is also being placed on renewable energy including the options of rooftop and solar farms set to gain momentum. An exercise to compute the space available for this option is being set in motion in order for the marketing to be undertaken with investors, many of whom have realised the immense potential that Zimbabwe possesses in relation to solar energy.
“Options for powering agriculture through smaller grids will be pursued as part of building resilience to climate change,” she said.