Vandalism is a social ill that results in a deliberate act of destroying public or private facilities and equipment. It is an unpleasant and inevitable reality that regulated entities are facing on a daily basis. It is divided into two categories, namely individual and group vandalism. Most destruction is caused by individual vandalism that results in considerable damage to infrastructure and adverse effects on communities.
Vandalism has a variety of adverse impacts on service delivery and regulation space, and it extends to economic, social, environmental and psychological dimensions, amongst others. It has become more prevalent in the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) and its impact is immeasurable. Every year, huge budgets are spent on repair and replacement of equipment damaged by vandals causing delays in the implementation of new projects and reducing performance of infrastructure.
Vandalism lowers the quality of life and with increasing incidences of this barbaric acts everywhere, it does not only disturb business activities, but also affects the rising feelings of fear, unrest and abnormality as well. The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) is plunged into financial distress as cables are ripped open to steal copper which is then sold in scrap yards. LEC incurred an estimated cost of M1,289,300.00 on vandalised infrastructure in the last financial year. LEC continues to struggle with cases of vandalism on transmission and distribution infrastructure. The vandals are deliberately sabotaging the electricity access agenda that the Government of Lesotho embarked on to ensure electricity for all and United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 7 – “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. These vandals compromise the reliability, continuity and stability of power supply.
Recently, the nation has been experiencing power outages because of vandalism of the power infrastructure. There have been cases where segments of the network were destroyed out of malice including syphoning of transformer oils causing transformers to burn, removing copper wires within transformers and at times theft of the entire transformer.
The Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) wishes to make the public aware that interference with the electricity supply network causes power blackouts, threatens the security of our homes, increases the cost of doing business and electricity tariffs, and disrupts vital services, including but not limited to, health, education, communication, as well as our lifestyles. Other effects include; increased project development costs, extended project delivery timelines and overall, affects the economy and national development.
Acts of cable theft and vandalism are committed within our communities sometimes by people we may know. Criminals steal this infrastructure to make easy money and with each incident, a large number of homes are left without electricity for hours or days. To stop and prevent the occurrence of such a phenomenon, individually and collectively we must take action. At the community level, LEWA encourages community policing. The general public is called upon to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour on a power network near them to the nearest police station or LEC at +266 5210 0000 or 5227 2000.
While we lament this completely unacceptable situation, it must be stated that the possible danger of electricity equipment vandalism persists because of the existence of an assured “market” somewhere for the stolen items. All of us must protect these vital assets from the grip of criminals and consider it a patriotic duty to join the fight against the vandalism of electricity equipment.