A power blackout in some parts of Binga district has been attributed to a thieving gang which allegedly pulled down 640kgs of overhead copper conductors with an estimated value of over $200 000.

Lenos Sithole (41) of Magwegwe North suburb in Bulawayo- who is accused of ganging up with his two other accomplices to commit the crime- has since approached the High Court seeking bail pending trial.

It is the state’s case that, after pulling down the copper cables, the trio then loaded their loot into a Toyota Quantum with South African number plates before they were intercepted the following day at a fuel queue in the Cross Dete area where the stolen cables were discovered.

Information obtained from state papers reveal that, on January 10 this year shortly after 7.30pm, Sithole, a one Insurance Nhongo and their accomplices still at large, drove to Binga in a South Africa registered Toyota Quantum.

Upon arrival, they allegedly cut overhead copper conductors using a bolt cutter and loaded them into their vehicle and drove off.

At around 7.30am the following morning, Zesa employees then discovered that there was a power outage around Binga area.

Upon investigations they discovered that part of the overhead copper conductors had been cut off along a turn off leading to the Binga District Development Fund (DDF) depot and a report was made to the police, leading to further investigations.

The vehicle was then intercepted at a service station at Cross Dete and Sithole and his other accomplices managed to run away.

It is further state that Nhongo was arrested at the scene where 33 rolls of the stolen cables worth $209 717,10 were found in the vehicle.

Nhongo implicated Sithole leading to his arrest at his house in Bulawayo.

Sithole is now being charged with cutting and interfering with apparatus for generation, transmission, distribution or supply of electricity in violation of the Electricity Act.

Through his lawyers, Tanaka Law Chambers, Sithole filed an application for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as the respondent.

He, in turn, denies the charges, arguing that there was no evidence linking him to the alleged offence, saying he was only implicated by a one Insurance Nhongo who was arrested at the scene by virtue of being the authorised driver as shown on the vehicle’s temporary import permit (TIP).

“There is no eye witness to state that indeed I travelled to and from Binga in the vehicle in question. I was heavily assaulted by police officers who arrested me while at my home,” partly reads Sithole’s submission.

“I met one Insurance Nhongo for the first time in prison and police are misleading the court by stating that I was at Cross Dete and also participated in the alleged crime which took place in Binga as I was never there,” said Sithole.

He further submitted that police officers are merely assuming that he was in the vehicle ‘because of the TIP and my passport and nothing else’.

“There was no identification parade, not even a single witness who can safely say I was present at the crime scene save for inadmissible confession from Nhongo,” he argued.

Sithole said there were no compelling reasons warranting his continued detention pending trial.

He also described as ‘unfounded’ fears by the state that if released on bail, he was likely to abscond due to the gravity of the offence, which attracts a mandatory 10-year prison term upon conviction.

The accused further contends that he is a Zimbabwe-born citizen who has lived in this country for the better part of his life.

He also added that he is of fixed abode and has absolutely no means and ability to escape the jurisdiction beyond the reach of law enforcement agents.

Representing the state, Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda opposed the bail application despite Sithole offering to pay $1 000 bail and to report once a week at Bulawayo Central Police Station as well as residing at his given address until the criminal case was brought to conclusion.

In denying him bail, Ndlovu-Sibanda said there was overwhelming evidence against Sithole.

“In casu, applicant has shown propensity to abscond. He was implicated by his co-accused who has since been convicted. As an indication that applicant is a flight risk upon arrest he fled and was only caught in Bulawayo after several raids,” she said.

“Hence it is not bald assertion that applicant will flee as he had already given indications of his intentions. Wherefore, the respondent prays that the application be dismissed,” said Ndlovu-Sibanda.

state media
Additional Reporting: Zwnews