On Tuesday, the metro police will unveil vehicles to be used by a new, dedicated cable theft unit amid revelations that the crime costs the City of Tshwane R200 million a year.
This annual loss is not enough to discourage members of local government, who say they are winning the war against the crime, Pretoria News has reported.
Mayor Solly Msimanga last year set up the dedicated metro police unit, setting aside R80 million as the unit’s budget.
In his state of the capital address earlier in the year, Msimanga said cable thieves who “relentlessly” pursued their crimes had put the City under extreme pressure.
Tshwane MMC for utility services Darryl Moss acknowledged that City employees had been implicated in cable theft in the past.
However, he also said the City was closing in on what he called the“rotten apples in the barrel”.
“We have made a number of arrests, including some employees of the City. There are a number of initiatives under way that should curb this significantly. I think we are slowly winning the war,” Moss said.
Cable theft causes most of the power outages in the City of Tshwane, with old infrastructure and illegal connections said to be the second and third most common causes.
In 2012, then police minister Nathi Mthethwa said an estimated R5 billion a year was lost to cable theft.
The city’s plans to reduce cable theft include the installation of hi-tech security systems such as monitors, cameras, beams, access control and motion detectors across Tshwane.
The city’s anti-cable theft unit has also been equipped with specialised vehicles as well as high-tech equipment such as night-vision goggles.
Pretoria East Rekord reported on Monday that the city’s substations will see an increased security personnel visibility with 1 000 guards to be deployed at critical city infrastructure.
Last week residents and businesses were subjected to a week-long power outage due to a blaze engulfing the Wapadrand substation.
Residents had to cope without being able to cook food; frozen foods slowly defrosting in fridges; painful traffic jams because of out-of-order traffic lights and so forth.
“Since November 2017, until now we have lost almost R90-million to cable theft, that comes to an average of about R7-million to R8-million a month, and this is just cables and not the number of man-hours put into fixing them,” said Msimanga.
He added that the metro is still busy planning on how the 1 000 additional security personnel will be deployed.
The possibility of sabotage is suspected and has not been ruled out by the mayor.
“While we cannot prove it at this stage, some of the damage to our infrastructure is suspiciously strategic. It raises questions about the real intent behind the destruction and theft of our infrastructure.”
“For example, we have found cement bags and carcasses of livestock in our water infrastructure. This would not have been there if not for human intervention,” he said.
In recent weeks, there had been several cable theft attempts throughout the city, including the Koedoeberg substation in the east.
It was discovered that locks have been removed at a substation in Centurion on 17 July and officials prevented a fire from breaking out just in time.
On the same day as the Wapadrand substation fire, officials also found that the Pretoria West substation had been tampered with.
Additional reporting by Liam Ngobeni.