Plumtree Town and the border post have been plunged into darkness for the past three days as Zesa is struggling to restore power after thieves indiscriminately vandalized overhead electricity cables in a futile search for copper cables.
The destruction of Zesa installations on Friday caused a blackout and also resulting in the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) failing to pump water into its reservoirs servicing both commercial and residential areas of the border town.
By yesterday, engineers and technicians from the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings, were still making frantic efforts to restore power.
Zesa’s acting western region general manager Engineer Lloyd Jaji yesterday confirmed the development, saying efforts were underway to restore power in the border town.
“On Friday night suspected copper thieves tampered with our installations resulting in the entire town plunging into darkness. Normally whenever there is a blackout, our teams react swiftly to try to restore power, but in this case, we discovered that our installations had been vandalised,” he said.
“We deployed our teams on Saturday, but unfortunately we couldn’t finish the work because we discovered that several areas had been affected.”
Eng Jaji said the vandals did not steal anything because there was no copper in the overhead cables. “Ordinarily, thieves vandalised to steal copper, but in this case, there was no copper because we removed all the copper and replaced it with aluminum soon after they vandalised our installations last year and stole copper cables,” he said.
“Some of the structures are now old such that if you cut one of the wires, there is an imbalance resulting in the structures collapsing. It is not a case of simply joining the cables which we cut, but we now have to first replace the structures that fell down.”
Eng Jaji advised customers to treat all electrical installations as live, as power could be restored without notice anytime. He said they have since engaged police following an increase in cases of vandalism of Zesa property.
Plumtree Town Secretary Mr Davis Dumezweni Luthe said the blackout affected businesses in and around Figtree and Plumtree town and also affected Plumtree District Hospital’s operations.
He said following the blackout the town went dry with residents now relying on boreholes drilled at several strategic points.
“Whenever the town experiences power outages, automatically our water supply system is affected. We have drilled boreholes in several areas and residents are therefore relying on those facilities,” said Mr Luthe.
Last year in August, Plumtree Border Post was plunged into darkness for two days following theft of copper cables in Figtree, also affecting the whole farming community of Figtree including the popular Redwood Leisure Centre. The theft occurred around Cyrene High School causing a blackout for a radius of over 80 kilometres around the border post, on the Zimbabwean side.
Zesa has been losing cables worth millions of dollars to thieves with some targeting transformer oil for sale on the black market.
Smugglers have also been cashing in on the stolen copper most of which they sell in neighbouring countries.