By Pamenus Tuso
Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo City Council has expressed deep concern over the rampant vandalisation of solar traffic lights in Bulawayo Zimbabwe’s second largest city about 500km from the capital, Harare.
Addressing journalists in the city recently, the city’s director of Engineering Services, Simela Dube, said all the six solar traffic lights in the city had been vandalised.
Dube said the criminals are targeting mainly solar batteries which they sell to residents who use solar powered systems, especially in suburbs where there is no electricity.
“All the solar traffic lights which we have installed at the road intersections have been vandalised. The thieves are using bolt cutters to access the batteries which have a ready market in the high-density suburbs,” said Dube.
The director said the current power shortages have worsened the theft of the batteries.
“Right now, we have abandoned all new solar traffic lights installations because of the theft problems. We don’t have the capacity to secure the batteries. The current securing system is not working. As long as the problems of power shortages persist, this challenge will not disappear,” said Dube.
The city’s assistant director of Health Services in charge of the environment, Charles Malaba also told journalists that eight solar batteries had been stolen from Nketa Clinic.
“We are investigating the theft of eight solar batteries at Nketa Clinic. The solar powered batteries were used to store electricity when there was no electricity. The theft has affected the operations of the clinic,” said Malaba.
The local authority has also engaged the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe to carry out feasibility studies on renewable energy projects in the city. The Town Clerk said that as part of its renewable energy projects, the city is considering establishing solar farms at its graveyards.
“We have sold the community the idea of turning our cemeteries into solar farms. Initially, some people were arguing that it will be un-African to do that but I am happy that the idea has been accepted by the people,” said the Town Clerk.
Dube said the city is also exploring ways of installing solar panels at the city’s dams and waste –water and sewer treatment plants.
“We are floating solar farms in council dams where solar farms are erected in all the city’s water bodies such as the entire lower Ncema dam,” he said.
Dube said the local authority was also planning to construct solar power stations as well as the installations of solar panels at the city’s prominent buildings and industries.
Speaking at the same meeting, the city’s director of Engineering Services, expressed concern over the high cost of importing solar equipment.
“I think more of our local companies should set up plants to manufacture solar devices. For example, here in Bulawayo we can establish a solar farms equipment making plant. Currently all the devices are imported. This puts pressure on our foreign currency requirements,” said Dube.