Chegutu man gets ten years in jail for reconnecting ZESA

The recent case of a Chegutu resident, hit with a ten-year jail sentence for reconnecting his electricity, has highlighted the desperation of many who are being disconnected by the power authority for non-payment of bills.

According to the state run Herald newspaper, Chegutu resident Obvious Muposiwa owed money to ZESA and was first disconnected on February 8th. He reconnected his electricity as soon as the technician left, but this re- connection was soon discovered.

A second worker was dispatched to remove the circuit breaker in an effort to ensure that Muposiwa got no power at all. But the desperate 31 year old reportedly used wires to connect directly to power supplies.

This time he was arrested and brought to court, where he was convicted of “destroying or interfering with ZESA equipment” and was hit with a ten year sentence by Chegutu magistrate Fabian Feshete.

The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), who have been helping disconnected residents to negotiate payment plans with ZESA, described the sentence as “too harsh and too long” while also advising residents to avoid illegal connections because they are dangerous.

“We sympathize with all residents. We do not support them connecting themselves but we think a lesser sentence could have sent the message home,” explained CHRA coordinator Mfundo Mlilo, who added that Muposiwa’s case was “a sign of desperation”.

Online readers who commented on the harsh sentence given the Chegutu resident expressed shock and anger, criticizing ZESA for cutting off poor people why politicians and influential chefs got better treatment. Others accused ZESA workers of stealing cables without being punished and soliciting bribes from poor residents.

One reader wrote: “What about comrade Chombo? Has he settled his bill? And other big chefs who thought being ZANU masks you from any debt due? The jail sentence is too harsh. This offence deserves a 3-month term not 10 years..that’s unbelievable.”

Another wrote: “ZESA employees using electricity for free yet there are being paid monthly salaries. ZESA should be sued for forcing communities to pay towards the repair of vandalized transformers by deliberately taking ages to repair them…”

Mlilo at CHRA said ZESA has been disconnecting residents despite the fact that they themselves have not been providing consistent power supplies. Asked what residents can do if they owe money, he advised that they negotiate a payment plan before electricity is disconnected, or in order to be reconnected.

“If the payment plans are not honoured we encourage residents to approach our offices or our local district coordinators,” Mlilo explained. He said ZESA has so far been honouring the payment plans and sparing many residents from disconnection. A few cases in Warren Park and Sunningdale were wrongly disconnected and CHRA mediated their reconnection. SW Radio Africa

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