Thieves plunge Centurion into darkness

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Copy of PN Brakfontein Power350 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Despite mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa promising to beef up security at electricity substations, copper cable theft once again plunged parts of Centurion into darkness on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, 11 suburbs in Centurion were left without power for almost a week after cables were stolen from the Brakfontein substation, costing the metro R8 million to repair.

The same power station was hit again early on Tuesday, leaving at least six suburbs without electricity for several hours.

Louise Huyser, chairwoman of the Centurion Business Chamber, said the metro had to improve security around substations so that it is not “so easy” to steal the cables.

“Then the culprits have to be prosecuted successfully, because not having electricity results in a massive financial loss,” she said.

Large companies left without power for a week could lose millions, she said.

“We live in a technological world and we need electricity to be productive,” she said.

According to the municipality, the damage was “minimal” this time because of improved security measures.

“The city is investigating how the cable thieves managed to gain entry to the substation with improved and enhanced security,” said metro spokesman Selby Bokaba.

The affected suburbs were: Amberfield, Brakfontein, Heuwel-oord, Rooihuiskraal North, Thatchfield, the Reeds and parts of Wierda Park.

According to Bokaba, technicians managed to restore electricity “under very difficult circumstances” by lunchtime.

“The restoration was done within a few hours, enabling customers to receive power from another supply point, while the substation was being repaired,” he said.

“It was as a result of beefed-up security that the thieves fled the scene after causing minimal damage.

“The city will increase its vigilance around the substations”.

The capital city loses about R30m a year because of copper cable theft.

This year, nearly the same amount has been spent in only three months.

From July last year until June, almost 1 300 incidents of cable theft had been reported across the city’s seven regions.

From April to June, 450 cases of cable theft and vandalism of substations, cabling and transformers have been reported, and R20m lost.

At a press briefing on July 2, Ramokgopa branded the copper cable theft economic sabotage and said municipal employees could not be ruled out as suspects.

“We think that this amounts to sabotage to undermine the economy of the capital city and the nation in general,” he said at the time.

Ramokgopa said investigations into the ongoing theft 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.

At the same briefing, city manager Jason Ngobeni said intelligence services had been roped into the fight against cable thefts as substations were considered national key points.

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Twitter: @LalivZ

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