ZESA Compensation USD20,000, 13Years Later
27 June 2023
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In a recent court ruling, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has been ordered to pay a compensation amount of over US$20,000 to Israel James, a 22-year-old man who suffered life-changing injuries as a child due to the negligence of ZESA workers. The incident, which occurred in November 2010, involved live wires left on the ground by the power company’s employees. This article examines the case, the court’s decision, and the implications of the ruling.

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority workers working on a new electricity line …Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda

The Incident and Injuries

Israel James was just nine years old when he received severe electric shocks from live wires negligently left lying on the ground by ZESA workers. The incident resulted in him being thrown into the air multiple times before he was rescued. Israel sustained burns, fall injuries, and a permanent deformity on his torso and back. Additionally, he suffered a head injury when a plate holding cables exploded during the accident, leading to a 19-day hospitalization.

The Legal Battle

Following the incident, Israel’s father, Mr. Alphas James, initiated a High Court bid against ZESA’s subsidiary company, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC). Mr. James sought damages amounting to US$250,000, covering pain and suffering, physical deformity, shock, and trauma resulting from the exposure to electricity.

The Court’s Decision

Justice Priscillah Munangati-Manongwa, presiding over the case, acknowledged ZESA’s liability but found the claim of US$250,000 to be excessive. After careful consideration, the court awarded Israel James a compensation amount of US$20,677, payable in the local currency. ZESA had proposed an award of US$3,000, which the court deemed inappropriate given the extent of Israel’s injuries, pain, and physical and mental suffering.

Justice Munangati-Manongwa’s ruling rejected the argument put forth by Mr. James that the injured boy’s future ability to provide for his family should be considered, stating that such speculation has no place in the legal realm. The judge emphasized the importance of substantiating future repercussions on the claimant through medical reports, cautioning against relying on unfounded claims aimed at maximizing the defendant’s culpability.

Understanding Damages and Justice

The court’s decision highlights the purpose of damages in legal proceedings. Damages are not intended to penalize the negligent party but rather to achieve justice and restore the claimant to their pre-incident state as much as possible while being fair to all parties involved. Justice Munangati-Manongwa emphasized the need to strike a balance in awarding compensation.

The case of Israel James serves as a reminder of the importance of holding organizations accountable for their negligence, particularly when it results in life-changing injuries. While the compensation awarded by the court may not fully remedy the physical and emotional impact on Israel’s life, it reflects a step towards acknowledging his suffering. This ruling should encourage entities like ZESA to prioritize safety measures, ensuring that incidents like these are prevented in the future.- state media