Copper ACT eases vandalism at NRZ – Parly

By Bruce Chahwanda

The Copper Act, which was enacted last year, has been described as key in curbing vandalism of electricity and communication infrastructure, whose cost runs into billions of United States dollars.

With rampant vandalism of road, rail and communication infrastructure having been the order of the day, government last year came up with the Act meant to deter would-be offenders.

Although the problem is not yet over, the law has coincided with a reduction in the number of losses, which have also affected the public.

The chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, Honourable Oscar Gorerino gave an insight into the task at hand in the wake of wanton destruction of key infrastructure across the country.

“We have road signs being stripped causing a lot of damage leading to losses as accidents occur. We have NRZ, whose assets have been stripped for the benefit of few individuals and now there is no signal. On ZESA infrastructure, we have witnessed power cuts even at the international airport which brings huge losses of business,” he said.

Legislator and former chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, Honourable Dexter Nduna said it will cost the nation billions of dollars to replace the infrastructure.

“This has been a major undoing for this nation. It is going to cost us billions of dollars replacing the vandalised equipment.”

Coming up with proper legislative framework has been a masterstroke, with the Copper Act having played an important role in curtailing vandalism.

“As Parliament, we have come up with a deterrent legislation that is the Copper Act. This has a mandatory sentence of 10-year jail term for any offender. This has seen reduction in vandalism cases,” noted Hon Gorerino.

With such pieces of legislation in place, it is now up to the law enforcement agents to uproot bad apples within society.

Meanwhile, cases of vandalism and theft of power and telecommunication infrastructure have risen by more than 200 percent in Mashonaland Central Province during the first five months of the year, translating to nearly US$2 million.The increase in the vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure has become an economic threat to the nation, with cases recorded in Mashonaland Central province going up to 202 for the first five months of the year, compared to 53 cases in the same period last year.

This has led parastatals to join forces with police in raising awareness on mitigating the vice which inhibits the ease of doing business.

TelOne Enterprise Risk Manager Alfreda Ushe said, “To fight poverty, accelerate development and increase industrial linkages protection of utilities remains of paramount importance.”

Shepherd Dadi ZESA Holdings Northern Region General Manager noted the seriousness of the crime of vandalism, “Daily there are reports of acts of vandalism which are nothing short of economic sabotage. We think this crime should be treated seriously because it is nothing short of treason.”

“Maximum mandatory deterrent sentences must be effected to stop these illegal activities. The cost of repair and replacement must be transferred to perpetrators as in most cases, the government NRZ and the community bear the loses,” said NRZ General Manager, Respina Ziyanduko.

Law enforcement agents gave a stern warning to criminals behind acts of vandalism, while government is calling for closer cooperation among stakeholders.

Officer Commanding Zimbabwe Republic Police Mashonaland Central province, Commissioner Dr Wycliffe Makamache warned perpetrators, “To those is this serious business of economic sabotage, who are buying expensive cars and living lavishly, regardless of your economic status, the long arm of the law will soon catch up with you.”

“As citizens, we must not oppose the vision of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr E.D. Mnangagwa who is always on record saying, and I quote, ‘Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo,” said Senator Monica Mavhunga, Mashonaland Central Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution.

The campaign against vandalism comes in the wake of the Copper Cable Amendment Act which increased mandatory sentences for copper thieves without the option of a fine.