Coal line criminals identified, must be jailed – Transnet

From left, Randy Fabi, Alan Waller, Gavin Kelly, Xolani Mbambo, Theo Johnson and Matthias Brodner.

From left, Randy Fabi, Alan Waller, Gavin Kelly, Xolani Mbambo, Theo Johnson and Matthias Brodner.

Photo by Creamer Media

2nd February 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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CAPE TOWN ( – The criminal syndicates that regularly bring South Africa’s coal export line to a halt have been identified through the intelligence operations that are conducted by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).

What is lacking is the ability of law-enforcement agencies to then work on information, see to convictions and ensure that the members of the syndicates are sentenced appropriately and are not released so that they are able to repeatedly resume their criminal behavior.

TFR North Corridor acting managing executive Theo Johnson emphasised this during a nineteenth Southern African Coal Conference panel discussion chaired by McCloskey Southern African Coal Report’s Randy Fabi, with panellists including Grindrod CEO Xolani Mbambo, Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly, Richards Bay Coal Terminal CEO Alan Waller, and Turing Insights MD Matthias Brodner.

Johnson called for an end to criminal syndicate members being released so that they can return to recommit the same crimes.

He highlighted the need for all spheres of government to work together to ensure identified syndicates were meaningfully sentenced.

“Syndicates know exactly where to pounce so that the coal line comes to a standstill and it’s something that’s of great concern to us,” Johnson told the 300 people present at the event covered by Mining Weekly.

Fabi: If you know where they’re going to pounce, could you not just increase security around that area?

Johnson: They get smart. When you close one gap, they go on to another. You are not dealing with people who do not know what they are doing. They hit you during shift changes. When you close that gap, they will hit you just down the road and then you come to a standstill.

While the pattern of criminality was now known, a collective move to the next layer of prevention was now essential.

“We need the next layer to be effective so that once they are identified, they can be put away so that we can operate the system.

Fabi: I know you’re slowly trying to rewire the train tracks to have less copper. Do you think that will lead to a significant decline in cable theft?

Johnson: We are rewiring. It is a massive project which has to be done while you are operating so we usually target our annual maintenance period when we close the line for about ten days and do the switching project. It’s going to take quite long but the good thing is it has commenced now and critical parts of the network are being rewired so that the syndicates no longer steal copper cable from those areas. But when the Tiger wire (aluminium conductor steel reinforced or ACSR wire not bought by scrap dealers) is cut and it just gets left there, that points to sabotage and those are the incidents that we need to bring to an end.


Transnet, in partnership with industry, is intensifying deployment of security measures to reduce cable theft and infrastructure damage through vandalism.

Transnet and the Richards Bay Coal Terminal signed a mutual cooperation agreement in November, which allows for collaboration on fast-tracking maintenance and operations sustaining procurement. Even as early as the end of December, this agreement was showing clear signs of improving performance.


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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