COMMENT: Vandalising public infrastructure must stop

The Chronicle

THE Government is working hard to build and rebuild infrastructure after years of challenges made that impossible.

Indeed, the whole country is under construction and reconstruction, so to speak.

New roads, dams, clinics, hospitals and schools are being built and old ones rehabilitated.

Boreholes are being drilled and equipped.

In fact, the Government has a plan to drill and equip a borehole in each of the country’s 35 000 villages. A community garden will be established at each of the boreholes.

Electricity and communication infrastructure is being worked on too.

The public transport system is included, witness the new fleet of buses the Government has imported for Zupco.

It is a whole gamut of public infrastructure that is being built and rehabilitated.

That is commendable.

But as the Government builds and rebuilds, vandals follow.

“With the Gwayi-Shangani Piped Water Project whose construction has now started in earnest, Bulawayo’s water woes should be resolved conclusively before 2023.

Along the way, that pipeline will be depositing water, to turn Matabeleland into a sustainable green belt,” President Mnangagwa wrote in his weekly column in our sister paper Sunday News yesterday.

And that is great news.

Matabeleland North and Bulawayo will not be the same again with Zambezi River water there, likely over the next few months.

However, there is some discouraging news.

“My working visit to Matabeleland only two weeks ago revealed appalling vandalisation of infrastructure in our country,” the President added.

“This is particularly so in respect of infrastructure for our national electricity grid.

This vandalism, which has also affected Epping Waterworks in Nyamandlovu, must come to an end.

I warn those dabbling on the wrong side of the law that we will catch up with them quite soon.

They will only have themselves to blame.

They are drawing us back.”

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) corporate communications and marketing manager, Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said that indeed there has been an increase in vandalism of power infrastructure feeding into the waterworks which was in turn affecting water delivery to Bulawayo.

She said five transformers, electricity breakers and meters have been vandalised.

This, added Mrs Munyonga, has seriously affected Zinwa’s pumping capacity from the Epping Forest and Nyamandlovu to Bulawayo.

The President was strong in his condemnation of vandalism at Epping Forest.

We join him in that.

It appears, we will continue building and rebuilding the same public infrastructure as vandals dismantle it as soon as it is put up.

No, we can’t do that, good must prevail over bad.

We cannot live at the mercy of criminals who see public infrastructure, not as a public good to be treasured, but as an opportunity for personal, illegitimate profit.

Zinwa and Zesa must put in place systems to protect their assets not only at Epping Forest, but also elsewhere across the country.

That can involve employing more guards to keep the infrastructure under 24-hour surveillance.

Technologies such as drones equipped with infrared cameras can be deployed on the water and electricity infrastructure as well.

This means much money, we acknowledge, but Zinwa and Zesa have no choice.

We don’t think rebuilding vandalised infrastructure is cheaper.

They must take a position to protect the assets they have, whatever it takes.

The Government estimated in February, 2020, that 2 171 electricity transformers had been stolen or vandalised countrywide.

The cost of replacing and repairing was immense.

Additionally, the impact of loss of power on business and lives that occurred when transformers were damaged or stolen made the loss far greater.

We understand that efforts are underway to amend the Electricity Act so that penalties against vandals are toughened.

There is a proposal to increase the mandatory jail sentence from around 10 years to 30 years for those convicted of vandalising energy infrastructure.

That is the way to go, while, of course, more is invested in protecting water and energy infrastructure from damage.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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