Blacks stealing like crazy: Copper cable theft nightmare in South Africa

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Eskom and City Power have observed a surge in copper cable thefts, with criminals stealing cabling in Johannesburg up to five times a day, according to a Sunday Times report.

Two dangerous instances of cable theft and attempted cable theft occurred recently, both in Soweto.

In one of the events in Nancefield, a group of thieves pulled 180m of copper cabling out of the ground with a bakkie — in broad daylight.

The cabling they removed is estimated to have a value of R60,000, and the culprits remain at large.

The other resulted in a shootout after community members intervened to protect the infrastructure from cable thieves in Eldorado Park.

City Press reported that 11 armed men were arrested following the attempted cable theft.

The removal of copper cables often results in extensive power outages for the residents that rely on them to supply municipal electricity.

Residents in Bedfordview suffered a days-long power outage in November 2021 after cable thieves damaged a crucial cable in a failed attempt to steal it.

The cable powers the City of Ekurhuleni’s Bedfordview substation. Despite Eskom working around the clock to prepare and complete the necessary repairs, the power utility could only restore power after several days.

In January, police minister Bheki Cele revealed disappointing statistics regarding cable theft-related arrests.

Cele had established a task team to fight cable theft in May 2020 and, since its inception, had only made 28 arrests — of which only three resulted in jail time.

“Two accused were found guilty and both sentenced to three years imprisonment, on the first count and one year on the second count,” Cele wrote in response to Parliamentary questions.

He added that another had been found guilty, sentenced to 12 years of direct imprisonment and declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The task team comprises several SAPS roleplayers, the National Prosecuting Authority, and Eskom. It developed an action plan to tackle cable theft crimes, focussing on two kinds of thieves — organised and opportunistic criminals.

According to the minister, organised criminals target quantities of copper cables that will return the most value, while opportunistic criminals target smaller amounts to accommodate their immediate needs.

The action plan’s directive is to:
Prevent, combat, and investigate national priority offences.
Ensure the availability of reliable and validated crime information.
Ensure effective and efficient investigations.
Make sure there is adequate support during the investigation of a crime.
Provide a specialised response capability.


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