Vandalism of ESCOM infrastructure continues as 2 caught

Despite pleas against vandalism and theft of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) property, the despicable act continues as two are caught at Mitekete area of Phalombe District on Wednesday after they cut off five spans of a single-phase aluminium power conductor.

This was just when ESCOM was set to restore power supply to Mitekete. The two suspects identified as Jonathan Mwitha and Friday Julius were caught in the act and taken to Migowi Police Unit.

A statement from ESCOM applauds members of the community for alerting ESCOM security officers of what was happening, who rushed to the scene of the incident at 8:00am and “swiftly apprehended the two vandals before they had caused extensive damage to the ESCOM infrastructure”.

“The 1,000-metre conductor, meant to be connected to a new transformer, was cut off at around 5:00am on Wednesday and is worth K1,128,000,” said the statement.

“The area has been without power supply for five months after its initial transformer was damaged by lightning.”

This follows another vandalism that happened last Friday when eight wooden poles, stole six spans of aluminium conductor and line accessories of ESCOM overhead power transmission line were cut down in Dzalanyama Forest in Lilongwe on Friday.

One suspect, 26-year-old Nevas Chimphanje, was arrested in connection with the incident after forest guards stumbled upon him.

Some 50 metres of aluminium conductor was recovered from the scene of the incident with ESCOM saying this is not the first time for the portion of the 11kV Bunda overhead line to be vandalized which was constructed under the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme to supply electricity to communities inside Dzalanyama Forest.

The first incident occurred in May 2022 when the vandals stole 3.1km portion of the line worth K36 million and four people were arrested whose case is still being heard in court.

The 3.1km portion line is yet to be energized following the vandalism which happened soon after being commissioned.

For the Phalombe incident, ESCOM says upon interrogation, the suspects are reported to have revealed that they had found a market for the conductor in the neighbouring Mozambique.

Just two days ago, concerned Malawians attributed the rampant vandalism of government infrastructure as due to unlicensed scrap metal dealers.

Thus the public took to social media to condemn the mushrooming of scrap metal dealers as one of the reasons for the increase in vandalism of ESCOM’s  property.

Writing on Malawi Police Service Facebook page Eremia Phiri suggested that the arrested suspect should be pinned down to disclose where they sell the cables.

“It would definitely scrap metal dealers,” he said. “There has to be some means to regulate and register these scrap metal dealers because they are all over — even in residential areas.”

Al Shaun Antonio attributed the development as due to ESCOM’s strategy which allows customers to purchase their own materials for electricity connections, saying in the past, “you would not easily find these connection wires because it was only found with ESCOM”.

“But after they allowed everyone to purchase their own materials when they need — they gave these thieves businesses. Where would they have sold the wires if it was back in the day?”

Another commentator Aubrey Kabenu agreed to this, saying once ESCOM liberalised the buying and selling of these wires which was then, done solely by them, is a contributing factor.

“We understand it was done to relieve the pressure that was there due to high demand of electricity connections but it was a great mistake,” he said.

“Now it will be tough to trace who is doing clean business of the items and perpetrators, I wish it was reversed. It is now close to five months since a similar case happened in our area and we are required to buy the wires for them to fix the problem.”

Among other comments, many of the people implored on the Malawi Police Service to plead for a stiff punishments in court to deter would-be offenders.

ESCOM continues to strongly condemn this unpatriotic behaviour as it is hampering its efforts to increase the electricity access rate of reaching out to the remotest areas and to improve service delivery.

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