If it were not for a lineperson’s intervention last week, members of the community at Lobeni Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chikumbu in Mulanje District, would have probably not been accessing electricity by now.
The linesperson Gift Mlenga intervened to thwart vandals who were dismantling a transformer in the area last week on Monday night.
It all happened on September 19, 2022 when power suddenly went off at Lobeni.
The 39-year-old linesperson refused to treat the blackout as routine.
He, instead, made a call to Mulanje ESCOM office verifying if other surrounding areas were also in darkness.
After all, he had embraced anti-vandalism campaign messages urging ESCOM employees to be proactive in protecting the company’s assets.
“I heard during the anti-vandalism campaign that we, ESCOM employees, should be in the forefront protecting assets such as transformers, so I make it a point to patrol the area around the transformer every time power goes off,” Mlenga said.
Never mind that his efforts to have other members of the community at Lobeni join such patrols have been hitting a snag. He goes it alone.
On this particular night, the father of three did it alone—literally walking to the transformer area at around 11:10pm.
“I had established that there was power supply in the rest of the areas; hence I became suspicious. I started off where the transformer is located while carrying my gun which is duly licensed,” Mlenga said.
“True to my suspicion, I overheard a conversation from people who were at the transformer. I hid in the bush some five metres away from the transformer. I overhead them telling each other that they were almost done dismantling the transformer.
“One of them said: ‘Send me the spanner, we are almost done.” At that moment, I decided to act. I fired shots at one of the suspects who fell down. Very soon, the group of people started fleeing from the spot while carrying their injured counterpart at the back.”
At that point, the ESCOM employee rushed to inform Village head Lobeni about the incident. Soon people in the area mobilized themselves and went to the scene where they found deserted oily spanners and attire which the vandals were using.
A man-hunt for the suspects began in earnest. Just when the members of the community thought they had cornered the suspects, they escaped using a minibus which had been parked by the roadside of the Mulanje-Thyolo main road.
“We learnt from people who saw the minibus parked, that the vandals had just driven off a few minutes before our arrival. We reported the matter to Mulanje Police who have since embarked on investigations,” Mlenga said.
The linesman joined ESCOM on 27th December 2012.
As a lineperson/lineworker or linesman, his job revolves around constructing and maintaining electrical transmission and distribution facilities that deliver electrical energy to customers.
“I remain committed to my work. I started my job in Blantyre and only got transferred to Mulanje in the year 2018,” he said.
Mulanje District Engineer Dumisan Zinga hailed the intervention of the linesperson.
“The team mounted the transformer and it is now up and running. We are very grateful to the linesman. His timely intervention helped to ensure that the entire area has access to electricity,” he said.
ESCOM Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda has since commended the intervention of the linesperson.
"The intervention of the linesperson shows not only dedication to the cause of ESCOM, but also patriotism to the country since such transformers are national assets".
Meanwhile, ESCOM has stepped up its anti-vandalism campaign, this time focusing on areas mapped as vandalism hotspots in the Central Region.
A similar campaign took place in some Southern Region districts such as Mangochi, Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzulu two months ago.
Vandalism deprives the corporation of the much-needed revenue, undermines service delivery, suffocates business ventures and puts lives, including of patients, at risk.
ESCOM needs some K2 billion every year to replace vandalized transformers. So far, over 200 transformers have been vandalized.