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Cape Town - The SA Navy is “deaf in one ear” after copper thieves made off with more than 5km of cable from the naval command centre at Silvermine in Cape Town.
This was the view of DA spokesman on defence David Maynier on Sunday after a report in the Sunday Times said the centre had been hit five times in a year, despite being designated a national key point.
The “lower antennae farm” had been breached by copper thieves and stripped of copper “earth straps” and “ground planes”, it reported.
The “upper antennae farm” had also been breached and stripped of copper cables, and holes had been cut in the boundary fences cordoning off the “lower antennae farm” and the “upper antennae farm”.
The front gates were hanging open and a razor-wire fence had partly collapsed.
Copper pipes supplying water to the air-conditioning system inside the base had been stolen.
In total, more than 5 000m of copper wire had been looted.
The installation is a radio base for the navy that also serves maritime patrol aircraft and foreign communications services and helps with search-and-rescue operations.
Maynier said the theft compromised radio communication, “and therefore command and control” of the navy.
It was effectively “deaf” in one ear.
It was suspected the theft was an “inside job”, yet there had been no action from the military police.
The fact that the boundary fences had collapsed was well known and they had been awaiting repair by the Department of Public Works since 2011.
Maynier said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula must step in and “sort out the complete shambles” at Silvermine.
She should ensure there was proper perimeter security, including a new boundary fence, that the radio communications systems were repaired and restored to full working order and that there was a proper criminal investigation.
“The fact that copper thieves breached the naval command centre at Silvermine is a national - and international - embarrassment that may compromise maritime safety and national security,” Maynier said.
The Defence Department did not respond to requests for comment.