Durban - Police have uncovered one of the biggest hauls of copper in KwaZulu-Natal - more than R3 million worth of stolen cables stashed in a KwaMashu shack used as a warehouse.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said on Tuesday that Metrorail, Telkom, Eskom and the eThekwini Municipality’s electricity department had been called in to check if any of the cables belonged to them.
“Further investigations are under way and no arrests have been made,” Naicker said.
He said members of a provincial task team had recovered the stolen cables in a shack in KwaMashu’s A Section on Monday.
They had “stumbled upon intelligence of stolen copper cables stashed in the area”, he said.
“After a search of dwellings in the informal settlement they discovered the shack utilised as a warehouse for storing the stolen cable. About 200 rolls of copper cable valued in excess of R3m was recovered.”
Last month, police recovered millions of rand worth of copper in another KZN raid.
Naicker said at this stage only Metrorail and the municipality had positively identified some of the copper cable as theirs.
Metrorail’s KZN regional spokesman, Zama Nomnganga, said they had alerted police to the stash after receiving a tip-off from a concerned passenger.
“We then met them at the place where a shack was used as a storage and there was no one inside the shack.”
Nomnganga said some of the cables had been stolen from Metrorail’s warehouse in the vicinity of Durban Station. He said an internal investigation was under way.
was losing millions of rand though infrastructure vandalism by angry passengers because of train delays
caused by stolen cables, he said.
“We are losing revenue - about R1m a day. (The theft gets) us into trouble with passengers who want to burn trains. They vandalised a train (at) Zwelethu Railway Station (uMlazi) and several windows with stones.”
Nomnganga said Metrorail had 54 trains for its entire KZN network
, and that when cables were stolen, it not only caused disruptions but resulted in fewer tickets being sold.
“When a cable has been stolen from a railway line, we have to replace that cable. And in the meantime while we are fixing a railway line after a cable has been stolen we have to hire buses that will (travel) from one station to the next for passengers with weekly and monthly tickets,” he said.
“And we are losing a lot of money from that.”
eThekwini Municipality spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said thieves continued to wreak havoc and cause extensive damage.
“Cable theft remains one of the major challenges we are facing and the municipality loses in excess of R200m per annum on electricity and infrastructure theft.”
Mofokeng said cable theft hot spots included New Germany, Northdene, Clairwood, Inanda and Silverglen.
He said those areas were being monitored on a weekly basis.
“These are always changing as thieves move from one area to the next. Our business risk and investigations sections continuously undertake investigations and prosecution of syndicates…
“This is an ongoing operation. Sentences passed on perpetrators have ranged up to three years thus far,” said Mofokeng.
He said electrical distributor substations had armed monitoring and other anti-theft systems, including pepper gas, to deter criminals.
Telkom spokeswoman Sinah Phochana said while none of the cable found belonged to the communications utility, it had experienced a staggering 120 incidents of copper theft a month in KZN, from April to September last year.
“In the six months from April 2013 to the end of September 2013, Telkom spent about R12m in the KZN area to repair stolen copper cable,” said Phochana.
“Theft is not only limited to copper cable but also impacts on Telkom’s fibre optic network, which suffers collateral damage when it is mistaken for copper cable.”
She said Telkom also suffered high levels of telephone pole theft in some areas of KZN.
Meanwhile, 32 members of an alleged syndicate responsible for the widespread theft of copper cables and conductors from Transnet and Eskom in KZN face racketeering charges in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court.
The 32 suspects face 60 charges arising from the theft and disposal of copper cables and conductors in the province.
They were due to appear in court again on May 23.
One of the accused is Bashir Rashid, the owner of Afro Metals scrap metal dealership in KwaDukuza (Stanger) and Phoenix.
Identified as an alleged major roleplayer in the syndicate, he is out on bail of R500 000.
The investigating officer in the case, Warrant Officer Craig Botha of the Organised Crime Unit in Pietermaritzburg, said in an affidavit to the court last year that the group responsible for the cable theft in KZN was very well structured and had evaded arrest for a long time.