Telkom tackles cable theft

29th January 2024

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Telecommunications group Telkom has made strides against cable theft and vandalism as various initiatives drive down infrastructure-related crime at its facilities.

Hundreds of convictions for cable theft and infrastructure vandalism have been secured in a joint effort between Telkom and the South African Police Service (SAPS), helping to turn the tide on infrastructure vandalism across South Africa.

“Our partnerships made it possible to achieve great results, helping to turn the tide against crime,” said Telkom corporate security executive Sepadi Nkadimeng, adding that the community has also played a significant role through tip-offs to police and Telkom reporting hotlines.

“Many arrests have been made, but most importantly, we have supported the process of driving cases through the courts to get positive convictions.”

A total of 3 003 suspects were successfully apprehended from July 2017 to December 2023, equating to a rate of about 600 arrests a year, 50 a month or 1.5 a day. Cases were opened against 2 549 individuals.

“It costs Telkom tens of millions of rand every year to replace stolen or vandalised cables, as well as batteries stolen from cellphone towers. On top of this, Telkom budgets even larger amounts for security to protect its assets.”

A joint working group between Telkom, Eskom, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Transnet, the Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure (ESCI) Forum, has estimated that the economic damage caused by copper theft costs the country R7-billion every year, with a wider economic impact closer to R187-billion.

With South Africa’s courts having taken a zero-tolerance approach to cable theft and infrastructure vandalism, extremely tough jail sentences have been imposed on convicted offenders.

One of the most significant sentences occurred during 2023 in the Western Cape, where a syndicate group, which stole overhead copper cables from Telkom, Eskom and Transnet facilities across the country and then transported them to a scrap-metal dealer in Germiston, Gauteng, was successfully dismantled through collaborative efforts by SAPS, Telkom and the community.

“The legal proceedings resulted in the successful conviction of all five accused syndicate members who were successfully convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from 18 to 83 years imprisonment, culminating in a combined sentence of 210 years imprisonment,” said Nkadimeng.

According to cases logged by Telkom, and through collaborative efforts from all parties involved, a stringent approach to sentencing has been consistently applied throughout the country, with several cases across the country in 2023 seeing convictions of up to six years imprisonment.

One case in KwaZulu-Natal, in October 2023, saw the accused convicted and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for attempted theft of batteries.

“Overall, vigilant efforts of prosecution and investigation teams have led to the successful conviction of 523 accused individuals,” he continued, noting that the collective sentences handed down amount to 2 594 years’ imprisonment.

In addition to the convictions, a further 311 accused individuals currently have warrants of arrest issued against them, while 1 126 accused individuals are awaiting trial.

“We are extremely proud of the results that have been achieved. These successes show that the key to winning the fight against infrastructure theft and vandalism is collaboration with the community, and across industries. We must work together to beat crime.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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