Mzuzu Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court on Friday handed out an 18-year jail term to two men for vandalising Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) underground copper cables and impersonation.
Senior Resident Magistrate Isaac Maulidi sentenced Howard Mvula and James Kanyenda to nine years imprisonment with hard labour for the first count of vandalism and a further nine years for the second count of impersonation.
The court found the men guilty of vandalising electricity installation equipment contrary to section 45 (2)(d) of the Electricity Act and impersonating a public officer contrary to section 99(b) of the Penal Code.
The magistrate delivered the judgement during a mobile court session held at Chibanja opposite Mzuzu Airport to send a strong warning to cable thieves.
State Prosecutor Chris Nyirongo told the court that the police arrested the two men at Choma in Mzuzu on the night of (date) after finding them cutting the four-metre cables while disguising themselves as ESCOM employees.
Nyirongo asked the court to mete out a strong custodial sentence because the theft of the cables had deprived many people access to electricity and that the impersonation had dented the image of ESCOM employees.
The cables are worth K114,520.
A statement from Mzuzu Police Station spokesperson, Paul Tembo, says in mitigation, Mvula pleaded for leniency, saying he was a bread winner and he takes care of a big family.
ESCOM Public Relations Manager, Innocent Chitosi, has since applauded the Judiciary for meting out the stiffer custodial sentences to the two convicts.
“We applaud the Judiciary for this progressive sentence. Disruption in supply of electricity affects every facet of national development. Without electricity, there can be no pumping of potable water, no teaching and learning after hours, no operations in hospital theatres, no growth in SMEs or the manufacturing industry,” he said.
Vandalism of towers, cables, transformers, earth mats, meters and other assets affects ESCOM’s service deliver. It was estimated that ESCOM lost over K1 billion in the 2020-21 financial year to vandalism.
On the other hand, Kanyenda asked for mercy from the court, claiming Mvula enticed him to retrieve the cables on the understanding that they were obsolete and ESCOM was no longer using them.
Mvula is 35 years old and hails from Chiputa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mzukuzuku in Mzimba whereas James Kanyenda is aged 43 and is from Nyirenda Village under the same T/A.
DETERRENT—Part of the court proceedings—Picture courtesy of police.