Pretoria - Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa believes the major power outages in Centurion this week are acts of sabotage and is not ruling out the involvement of municipal employees in the theft of copper cables.
Eleven Centurion suburbs have been without power this week following copper cable thefts at the Brakfontein substation over the weekend and at Kentron substation on Monday. Electricity was restored in areas that are serviced by the Brakfontein substation on Wednesday and it is expected that residents serviced by the Kentron substation will have electricity by tomorrow.
Ramokgopa said there were attempts to tamper with Lyttelton and Atteridgeville substations on Wednesday but no one was arrested. The city announced that parts of Pretoria East were without electricity. Technicians were in the area to investigate why Faerie Glen, Olympus and Boardwalk were without electricity.
At a press briefing on the outages on Wednesday, Ramokgopa said: “We think that this amounts to sabotage to undermine the economy of the capital city and the nation in general. In the Brakfontein substation for instance, three days are needed to strip it. It might be someone with the right of access to the area. We have collected all that information and given it to law enforcement agencies.”
He said investigations should particularly focus on municipal employees and contractors. “When you look at the trend, it is well orchestrated by people with the technical know-how,” the mayor said.
City manager Jason Ngobeni said intelligence services had been roped into the fight against cable thefts as substations were considered national key points. He said: “We are going to tighten security at the stations. If staff want to go there, there would be electronic surveillance and there would also be tracking, chipping and tracing technology for all our equipment.”
Ngobeni said the metro police department, which is tasked with securing the substations, will consider forming a dedicated unit to deal with cable theft. He said particular attention would also be paid to scrap yards as they buy the stolen copper for recycling.
The city will also increase security and intelligence gathering, CCTV surveillance at substations, have community and business partnerships to curb the trade and hiring of cable thieves, and offer rewards to whistleblowers.
Last year, the municipality spent R30 million to replace stolen copper cables. This year nearly the same amount has been spent in only three months. From April to June, 450 cases of cable theft and vandalism of substations, cabling and transformers have been reported, and R20m lost. To fix the Brakfontein and Kentron substations will cost the city another R8m.
Ramokgopa said: “These acts are not only impacting on power supply, but erode our financial resources which are direly needed to improve service delivery and rejuvenate the network.
“This has economic costs at a household level. We are penalising the poorest of the poor,” he said.