An anonymous tip-off has led to a major cable theft bust valued at about R500 000 by a specialised unit of the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) early this morning.
Members of TMPD's newly established Cable Theft Unit received information last night about a truck carrying stolen copper destined for a known second-hand scrap metal dealer west of the city.
Five members of the unit, in a marked police car, flagged down the truck on Van Der Hoff Road, a few metres from its destination. When the driver saw the police, he made a quick U-turn and sped off. The police gave chase and forced the truck off the road.
When police asked the driver what was in the back of the truck, he said he was delivering a pile of rubbish to a scrap metal dealer. Upon inspection of the truck, police made a startling discovery of used and new copper cables belonging to the City with a street value of R500 000 covered under a pile of rubbish. The cables had been stolen from the vandalised Suiderberg substation last Friday. It will cost the city about R3 million to repair the vandalised substation. The driver has since been arrested and is in police custody.
Today's breakthrough comes on the back of an intensified effort to clamp down on cable theft. Over the past five days (18 to 22 May 2018) more than five arrests relating to cable theft have been made. The focus is not only on cable thieves, but second-hand scrap metal dealers too. In one incident, TMPD officers found a cable normally used to supply a substation, which feeds a mini-substation and then the consumer, at a scrapyard. The owner could not explain the origin of the cable and was duly arrested. In another incident, copper cables were found at a scrapyard. The manager could not explain where the cables came from and was also arrested.
A delighted Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Cllr Solly Msimanga, who visited the crime scene this morning, appealed to the community to help the City curb the cable theft scourge.
"These cables are part of the infrastructure meant to service our communities for the provision of water and electricity. This infrastructure doesn't belong to the City, but to the communities. The substations are in the communities and I wish to appeal to our communities to join hands with us to break the backbone of the syndicates that have wrought havoc in the city, causing massive power outages and water supply interruptions across the entire city for quite some time now," Msimanga said.
Msimanga said he and other metro mayors in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, who collectively suffered a whopping R250 million loss due to cable theft in the past six months, intended approaching the Ministers of Police and Intelligence, as well as the President, to plead with them to prioritise cable theft.
"It's the community that suffers the most due to rampant cable theft. Today's bust is a welcome relief because some of our communities were beginning to think that the outages that they have been experiencing were as a result of our ineptitude or incompetence. The recent police successes bear testimony to what we've been saying all along – that the service interruptions were a result of theft and damage to the city's infrastructure. The time for criminals and their unlawful conduct in this city is over. We will work tirelessly to bring them to book. I wish to congratulate the team for these recent successes," Msimanga added.
The leadership of the City of Tshwane would like to reassure residents that they are aware of all service delivery challenges that have been raised, in particular, the issue of constant power outages. With winter now at our doorstep, we are aware that the demand for electricity will increase due to the cold weather conditions. We understand the importance of ensuring a continuous supply of electricity to our communities and businesses.
The unstable power supply is a serious concern and we are not taking it lightly. We have already begun to implement certain interventions to deal with all challenges that contribute to this problem. The power outages are due to a number of factors, but the main contributor is cable theft, which has an effect on mini substations, cabling and transformers, among others. Furthermore, the cost of cable theft is immense and impacts the City's revenue each time cables have to be replaced. This also means that the City has to channel funds that were meant for other services to restore power to residents.
The City of Tshwane's Chief of Police, Ms Johanna Nkomo, says the City's newly established Cable Theft Unit will be capacitated further so that it can intensify its efforts in dealing with cable theft, while continuing with other activities, such as physical guarding and patrols at various points. Our TMPD is aware of areas where this scourge is most prevalent and will double its efforts to safeguard City property at those specific points.
"We are encouraged by the recent arrests and will continue to work hard to effect more. There are a few issues, however, that we will need to work on closely with law enforcement agencies and the justice system to ensure synergy across the entire value chain, especially regarding arrests and successful convictions. We need to see a situation where the perpetrators are denied bail and are locked away for a long time. We need to stop them from inconveniencing our residents and costing government so much revenue loss and headaches," Nkomo said.
Another growing concern is vandalism of our substations. The City has to spend money almost daily on the restoration of substations that have been vandalised. This is prevalent across all seven regions. We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect the City's strategic assets. Tshwane is a capital city that houses the seat of government, government departments, tertiary institutions and a number of embassies. We have many sites of national strategic importance which we all have a responsibility to protect against any threat, including sabotage. We have begun to procure equipment to be utilised by the TMPD for the safeguarding of City assets. We are willing to try new mechanisms that will help us in this regard, which includes turning to technology.
We wish to reiterate our plea to our communities to report suspicious activities in their neighbourhoods to the Tshwane Metro Police Department on 012 358 7095/6.