Johannesburg - A man was found dangling from a pole in Robertsham, Joburg south, early on Wednesday morning after he attempted to steal electricity cables. City Power officials on the scene said he must have died instantly after getting a massive 380 kVa shock.
“These thieves operate all over the southern suburbs – Rosettenville, Booysens and Robertsham. They move around from one area to another,” said one of the technicians at the scene.
The technician said usually, once the thieves got to the top of the pole, they would cut wires which fell to the ground, and once these touched the earth, the system would trip, rendering it neutral.
“We don’t know what went wrong, but he must have touched the wrong wire.
“He would have died immediately,” said the man.
Video footage from a nearby business shows there were three other thieves standing below the pole waiting to roll up the wires, which contain copper.
The fire department was called at about 7am to take the body off the pole.
The City Power technician, who would not be named as they are not authorised to talk to the media, said the body was not burnt, but there was a hole in his head where the electricity that surged through his body exited.
“I did not want to get too close, but I could clearly see the hole,” he said.
Russell Harper was driving down Harry Street when he saw part of the road was closed off by emergency services.
He stopped and took a photo of the body dangling from the pole. [IOL has chosen not to publish Harper’s picture.]
“It is not a nice thing to see. I was shocked. But this electricity theft happens around here all the time. It is about the fifth time this month we have had power outages because of theft,” Harper said.
Traffic was backed up heavily on Wednesday morning because the traffic lights were out, while City Power officials repaired the cables.
Joburg metro police officers were on standby at most intersections.
City Power spokesman, Louis Pieterse ,confirmed the incident and said the city experienced huge losses due to cable theft.
“The overhead cables are highly dangerous and if thieves don’t know what they are doing, they will be electrocuted,” he said.
Pieterse said the city experienced on average 200 cable theft incidents a month, which, in the past financial year, cost residents R11 million.
“These are direct costs only – replacing and repairing cables – and does not include losses by residents and businesses,” he said.
On average, 42 percent of outages in the city were due to cable theft, he said.
In hot spot areas such as Northriding, Honeydew and Blairgowrie, where cable theft was rife, City Power was working with the community which was assisting in stopping this and the number of incidents was already down, he said.
“We need community engagement to reduce cable theft,” Pieterse said.