COPPERBELT Energy Corporation managing director Owen Silavwe has lamented that the company is losing US$1million every month due to vandals on its powerlines.
And Copperbelt minister Japhen Mwakalombe has warned that government would close in on thieves jeopardising the company’s efforts to expand its operations and create employment to the people.
Speaking at Luano main substation during the tour of CEC’s installations on Friday, Silavwe asked Mwakalombe who was accompanied by provincial permanent secretary Bright Nundwe and Kitwe district commissioner Binwell Mpundu to help beef up security on the 42 substations and power lines across the mining towns.
CEC is a strategic power supplier to the mines through its bulk-purchase agreement with the country’s power utility Zesco.
“We had one last night just after 01:00 hours, because also that’s how they do it, normally it has to be after midnight or towards the morning. That’s when they attack so, it’s one of the big challenges that we have got, so one of the things that we will be doing is obviously appealing to your office honourable minister, so that so that you can also be pushing our security wings so that they can help us. This is really becoming a big issue for us,” Silavwe said. “We are sort of losing probably 500 to $1 million dollars per month just through this vandalism. And also we have to go in, if you look at what we call the lines guys, they look very tired because they keep responding to these things. You know previous night, they were in Ndola, the following night they are rushing to Chililabombwe, so this is really becoming a big problem.”
He disclosed that the thieves who are mainly looking for copper cables have developed sophisticated methods in the execution of their actions which he said was very dangerous to the safety of human life.
“These are three phase lines so what the guys do, as the lines are becoming smaller, you see these phases, they can get quite close, so what they will do is they will come up with a nice equipment made out of wire, then they throw it in between, so when it touches the other one and the one, there is what we call tripping. So the line will switch off because the two are not supposed to meet, so the guys will throw something that will connect the two, whoever taught them that we have no idea,” Silavwe explained.
“Then they will know that within seconds actually milliseconds, the line will switch off so immediately they get to work, they climb these things very quickly. So they cut the copper this side and that side…now because the copper has become so viable today, the price is quite good so… The challenge that we have got is, because of the expanse of the network, what they are doing is today, they attack in Ndola, so they know you will be in Ndola, today they attack in Chingola, they go to Luanshya, so at the moment we are running all over like headless chickens. We don’t have a very good strategy of how to resolve this but we think we are closing in. We are beginning to close in and we are beginning to involve members of the public so that we see how we can collaborate, and we will probably begin to put some price tags on some of these things because it’s really getting bad.”
Silavwe said CEC was ready to partner with government to raise the power generation portfolio in the country.
In response Mwakalombe said the situation was every sad while at the same time people were crying for jobs.
“There are no jobs, we need more jobs so that we can sustain our living and when we start vandalizing! How are we going to create the jobs? Because the $1 million that you are spending, it’s the same money that should have gone to building more capacity, expanding the company so that you can create more jobs for everyone but now we have got only a few selfish individuals who wants to curtail everyone,” said Mwakalombe. “But I can assure you that definitely this matter we are going to make it a priority to ensure that it is resolved and those who are tampering with these wires, it is a matter of time…”