The Herald (Harare)

27 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Zesa Slapped With U.S $2,6 Million Lawsuit

SIX people from Chiwaridzo Farm in Bindura are claiming over US$2,6 million compensation from the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company for severe burns they sustained when the firm negligently switched on a high voltage line they were working on.

Paradzai Mupandenyama, Prince Chinembiri, Kudakwashe Kapfunde, Orchard Kanjado, Clememnce Shawu and Alexio Tembo - had been invited by ZETDC to erect electricity poles in their area when the incident occurred.

They sustained injuries that kept most of them in hospital for more than six months.

The six have now approached the High Court claiming a combined US$2 691 220 in damages.

Mupandenyama alone is claiming US$2 331 220 in delictual damages, Chinembiri wants US$115 000 for permanent impairment, disfigurement and disability, Kapfunde wants US$115 000, Kanjado is claiming US$40 000, Tembo is demanding US$120 000 while Shawu wants US$85 000.

Initially, they were suing as individuals, but their cases were consolidated into a single case.

A pre-trial conference was held recently before Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, who recommended the parties to engage in dialogue for a possible out-of -court settlement.

ZETDC admitted liability following its conviction on charges of negligently causing serious bodily harm and paid US$700 fine.

During the criminal proceedings, ZETDC pledged to compensate the victims, but reneged on the promise.

Both parties' lawyers have met in a bid to thrash out a settlement, but with little success.

They have, however, agreed to go back to court this week for the judge to assist them to ventilate the issue of the quantum of damages.

In an affidavit deposed by one of the applicants, Mupandenyama stated that on January 7 last year, at Chiwaridzo Farm, Bindura, ZETDC sought assistance from him to raise electricity poles that had fallen, citing manpower shortages.

Mupandenyama with six other people from the community offered to assist.

ZETDC linesman instructed the six and the company workers to hold on to the naked electrical wires and pull the poles into a hole.

"As the pole was almost upright in the hole, the plaintiff together with all other people who were holding on to the conductors were electrocuted and passed out," read part of the claim papers.

Mupandenyama was rushed to Bindura Hospital where he was transferred to the intensive care unit at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

He was discharged under the care of Bindura provincial hospital for further medical management.

"The plaintiff had to undergo major surgical operations resulting in the amputation of right hand and flesh filling of the contractured left hand as well as draining of burn fluids of the body."

Mupandenyama said ZETDC and its controller based in Bindura, Mr Chance Ncube, who are listed as respondents, negligently caused the accident.

"The first defendant (Ncube) acted negligently by unprocedurally and wrongly switching on or authorising the switching on of the high voltage line upon which the Plaintiff (Mupandenyama) was working yet the second defendant (ZETDC linesman Darious Rungano) had issued a permit-to-work some few minutes before the incident," he said.

He also accused Rungano of negligence after he failed to put precautionary measures in place.

The other five also filed their supporting affidavits with the court.

ZETDC lawyer Mr Vote Muza refused to comment on the matter, while Mr Zvidazi Kajokoto of Kajokoto and Company could not be reached for comment.

Several people have lost their lives after being electrocuted by naked cables over the past two years.

In June this year, Rural Electrification Agency worker Mr Stephen Kativhu was electrocuted while connecting electricity to Tsinga Primary School in Mutoko.

In April, Takudzwa Nyandoro a Grade four pupil at ZRP Tomlinson Depot Primary was electrocuted by exposed cables while playing with his brother.

A Kadoma boy had his arms amputated after he stepped on live cables left exposed by Zesa workers in May last year.

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