Mpumalanga – A 50-year-old man, suspected to be a leader of a syndicate specialising in network infrastructure theft in the Balfour area of Mpumalanga, has been arrested following a thorough investigation by Eskom’s investigation team.
The arrest took place after Eskom investigation team members were alerted to an increase in transformer theft within the Balfour area. While carrying out the investigation, the team received information pointing to a syndicate leader involved in the theft of, at least, seven transformers in the area.
The team was also alerted to the planned stealing of another transformer in the Greylingstad area, and members were dispatched to the would-be crime scene.
The following day the vehicle driven by the syndicate leader arrived at the scene and the suspects climbed out approximately 300m from where the transformer was lying on the ground.
The investigation team had been made aware that the transformer had already been dismantled and that the suspects knew exactly where it was dropped. The suspects were then seen loading the transformer into the vehicle and were later confronted by the investigation team.
One 25Kva transformer and a cellphone were recovered. The vehicle the suspects were travelling in, a white Toyota bakkie, was also handed over to the Balfour SAPS and a case of theft was opened.
While copper theft, alone, costs the economy between R5 billion and R7 billion a year, Eskom spends in the region of R2 billion a year replacing stolen copper cables. Furthermore, cable theft also leads to lengthy power outages, which affect not only the communities where the material is stolen but also brings to a halt businesses that operate within those communities.
“There is hope, however, that this crime will ultimately cease to exist,” said Tebogo Rakau, Divisional Executive for Security at Eskom. The courts have started to take infrastructure theft seriously.”
The most recent case of Andries Koos Mahlangu, who was sentenced to three years in prison for cable theft by the Kriel Magistrate Court, in Mpumalanga, is evidence that South African courts have, indeed, started to take this crime seriously.