Telkom said on Monday that collaboration with the South African Police Service aimed at nailing cable thieves is achieving solid results.
The JSE-listed telecommunications operator said that, working with the police, it has secured “hundreds of convictions” in recent years, which is “helping to turn the tide on infrastructure vandalism”.
Cable theft has long bedevilled Telkom and other infrastructure providers, including Eskom, Transnet and the country’s municipalities.
“The Telkom security and investigation team has managed to significantly reduce infrastructure-related crime at Telkom facilities. The community has also played a significant role through tip-offs to police and Telkom reporting hotlines,” the company said in a statement.
“Many arrests have been made, but most importantly, we’ve supported the process of driving cases through the courts to get positive convictions,” said Telkom executive for corporate security Sepadi Nkadimeng.
Over the past six-and-a-half years – from July 2017 to December 2023 – more than 3 000 suspects were apprehended. That’s an average of about 600 arrests annually, or 50 every month.
“Cases were opened against 2 549 individuals, and Telkom collaborated with key role players … to monitor these cases, supporting NPA prosecutors with every case. Our team of investigators attend every court appearance of accused, also testifying and providing evidence as required.”
Telkom said it costs the company tens of millions of rand every year to replace stolen or vandalised cables, as well as batteries stolen from cellphone towers. Telkom budgets even larger amounts for security to protect its assets, it added.
“South Africa’s courts have taken a zero-tolerance approach to cable theft and infrastructure vandalism. Extremely tough jail sentences have been imposed on convicted offenders,” it said.
“One of the most significant sentences occurred during 2023 in the Western Cape, where a syndicate group was successfully dismantled through collaborative efforts by the police, Telkom and the community. The syndicate, implicated cases of theft, racketeering and money laundering in contravention of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act was targeted in a joint operation.
“During the trial, a court heard that the syndicate orchestrated its operations by utilising rented vehicles to steal overhead copper cables from Telkom, Eskom and Transnet facilities across the country, and then transported them to a scrap-metal dealer in Germiston, Gauteng. 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.”
Other recent examples of successful prosecutions cited by Telkom include:
- In the Free State, in March 2023, one accused was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for attempted theft of underground copper cable after 17 court appearances.
- In Mpumalanga, in May 2023, one accused was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for attempted theft of overhead aerial line copper cable after eight court appearances.
- In the Eastern Cape, in October 2023, one accused was convicted and sentenced to six years behind bars for theft of overhead aerial line cable after four court appearances.
- In KwaZulu-Natal, in October 2023, one accused was convicted and sentenced to 12 years for attempted theft of batteries after 17 court appearances.
- In the North West, in November 2023, one accused was convicted and sentenced to six years for attempted theft of underground copper cable after 21 court appearances.
The Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure Forum, a joint working group between Telkom, Eskom, Prasa and Transnet has estimated that the economic damage caused by copper theft runs to R7-billion/year, with a wider economic impact of some R187-billion. – © 2024 NewsCentral Media