Nohlelo Mlilo, Sunday News Reporter.
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is concerned with continued theft of copper cables despite the Government coming up with a mandatory jail term for people convicted of stealing copper from public utilities.
During the first quarter of 2022, 15 cases of copper theft from NRZ infrastructure were reported, resulting in NRZ losing 1 067,58kg of copper cables worth US$12 811 and 26 suspects were arrested during the period.
NRZ acting spokesperson, Mr Martin Banda said NRZ was happy with the two suspects that were recently convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Hwange magistrate and the buyers that were fined $40 000 and given a suspended two months imprisonment.
“NRZ is happy with the sentences meted on the copper thieves, but it feels that the buyers of stolen copper cables should also be subjected to the same mandatory sentences.
“The copper theft menace is being fueled by the buyers and without buyers there will be no market for the stolen copper,” he said.
Mr Banda said if only thieves are subjected to mandatory jail sentence with buyers getting away with light fines, it means buyers are able to recruit a new crop of people to source stolen copper once the previous suppliers are incarcerated and the cycle of copper thefts will then continue.
“On its part NRZ is adopting various measures to protect its copper infrastructure, the organisation recently acquired motorcycles to enable security details to reach areas previously inaccessible by foot or cars, the benefits of the motor cycle patrols have been instant, the motor cycles have increased the visibility of NRZ security personnel thus deterring would be thieves and the organisation is also replacing copper cables with aluminum,” said Mr Banda.
The measures have seen the value of copper stolen during the first quarter of 2022 fall drastically compared to the same period last year when copper worth US$52 788 was stolen.
NRZ is appealing to members of the public to report any suspicious diggings close to the railway.