The rampant theft of copper cables and other infrastructural components owned by eThekwini Metro is causing a dent in service delivery, the Metro police said last week.
Between August 2021 and August 2022, thieves have stripped cables, as well as parts affecting electricity and other municipal services, to the tune of around R5 million.
On Sunday, the Metro police said the eThekwini Infrastructure Task Team conducted an enforcement session to try and clamp down on the incessant destruction of infrastructure owned by the City, Prasa and Transnet.
Metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Boysie Zungu said the task team conducted operations on the railway line between Marianhill and Shallcross this week, and two tons of Transnet/Prasa cables were recovered and three suspects were arrested for possession of suspected stolen property and tampering with essential infrastructure.
Zungu said the value of the recovered cables and other stolen items is about R1,2 million.
“In KwaMashu, suspects were caught with about 15 metres of municipal electricity cables worth about R10 000.
“In Phoenix a man was caught with about 50 kilograms of copper cables belonging to Transnet.
The cables have a street value of about R50 000. Around the Clairwood and Montclair railway line, the task team arrested a man found with concrete palisade fencing.
“The fencing was already stacked for pick up and it is estimated to be to the value of R86 000.
In Durban central, a man was arrested for being in possession of allegedly stolen items and for being in contravention of the Immigration Act and the Second Hand Goods Act.”
He said various cell phones, phone accessories, laptops and laptop accessories were seized from the man.
“In Ntuzuma, a man was arrested for being in possession of Transnet cables being used to manufacture traditional three-legged pots. The cables were estimated to have a street value of about R1,5 million.”
He said the team operates daily after receiving tip-offs from the public.
Metro Police deputy commissioner Sibonelo Mchunu said over 150 stolen property dockets connected to the looting in July last year are sitting with the SA Police Service (SAPS).
“We are happy to assist the communities to close down on criminal plans before they are implemented. We are always on the alert through our systems. We need the cooperation of various stakeholders in order to win the crime battle.”
Mchunu said the details of those arrested are known but could not be disclosed because the matters are in the hands of the SAPS, and some are being heard in the courts.
Asked if they know or have been to the place/s where the suspected thieves sell their loot, Mchunu said:
“We have not been on the property or properties where they sell the cables and other stolen material.
However, after arresting suspects, we hand them over to the nearest police station and further investigations are conducted by the SAPS.
“Intensive operations started in June this year because cable theft was rife at the time. It is hard to pinpoint an area and say this is a hot spot for this type of crime.
“It could be happening anywhere. At this point, it is difficult to pinpoint the criminals’ modus operandi, but there are various court cases underway.
“Working jointly with Prasa and Transnet, we will surmount these criminal activities. We urge residents to report any suspicious activity by contacting 031 361 0000.”
Dikatso Mothae, spokesperson for Transnet Freight Rail, said Transnet infrastructure is under attack from organised criminals across the country.
Approximately 395 km of cable was stolen in 2019/2020, 700 km in 2020/2021 and more than 1 400 km in the financial year ending March 2022.
The net financial impact of security incidents to Transnet over the last financial year was approximately R4,1 billion, which includes operational disruptions, security costs and remediation.
“Transnet is finding solutions to mitigate the scourge. We have put in place several measures to counteract this (including drones and tactical task teams), and are also collaborating with our customers on various initiatives.
“We continue to engage with all stakeholders and law enforcement agencies such as the SAPS. TFR firmly believes that the introduction of railway police and the judiciary meting out harsher punishment in prosecutions will go a long way in reducing crime.”
Another notable achievement is that TFR’s security officers were granted peace officer status by the minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
This means that they will be able to make arrests and assist the National Prosecuting Authority with prosecutions. They will also be able to search premises, facilities and people, complete dockets to ensure suspects are charged correctly, and assist with basic investigations, added Mothae.