Cable theft and infrastructure vandalism across South Africa was costing state-owned enterprises Eskom, Prasa and Transnet and partially state-owned Telkom R7 billion a year in direct losses. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Cable theft and infrastructure vandalism across South Africa was costing state-owned enterprises Eskom, Prasa and Transnet and partially state-owned Telkom R7 billion a year in direct losses. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Cable theft, vandalism cost SA firms R7bn a year

By Philippa Larkin Time of article published Jul 28, 2021

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CABLE theft and infrastructure vandalism across South Africa was costing state-owned enterprises Eskom, Prasa and Transnet and partially state-owned Telkom R7 billion a year in direct losses, and the knock-on effect to the economy was estimated at R187bn a year, the four companies that form part of a working group said in a combined statement yesterday.

A slower economic recovery was inevitable if cable and infrastructure theft was not reduced, they said.

In the private sector, MTN and Vodacom, among other companies, have also been hit by cable theft and vandalism.

The latest data shows that the total number of incidents of theft and vandalism of MTN infrastructure amounted to 378 in May, up from 312 in April.

This comes as economic growth is expected to slip after civil unrest recently lashed parts of the country, which may dent the South African Reserve Bank’s gross domestic product forecast of 4.2 percent for this year.

Telkom chief executive Sipho Maseko said there was a co-ordinated effort by law enforcement agencies and the four entities to address the growing problem.

The chief executives of the four companies joined forces to combat infrastructure and cable theft last year, and were developing a national cable theft prevention strategy to assist the government.

“We have established a joint working group to have this problem dealt with as a priority. This means working closely with law enforcement agencies and other key role-players in developing new security measures and tightening regulations to make it difficult to trade in stolen cables and critical infrastructure in general,” said Maseko.

The chief executives of Prasa, Eskom and Transnet affirmed that the economy was driven by inter-sectoral business dealings and interdependencies, meaning that the loss of production in one organisation might affect many others.

“We provide essential services to keep the economy and business moving forward, and these crimes undermine the national effort to improve services, quality of life and create jobs,” said the joint working group’s co-ordinating committee.

The joint working group welcomed the increased efforts of the police and the Hawks to crack down on copper theft syndicates, including the recent arrest of two KwaZulu-Natal police officers who were allegedly part of a cable theft gang.

In a joint statement, the working group said: “We will continue to support the police and the courts to enforce the law by arresting and prosecuting those responsible. Each act of theft or vandalism equally threatens the country’s recovery from the Covid19 pandemic. The CEOs of Telkom, Eskom, Prasa and Transnet agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed to the country the criticality and need for essential services. Network connectivity for both fixed and mobile services is crucial for businesses to be able to continue their operations remotely and to support home schooling.”

Telkom said telecommunications, electricity and rail infrastructure ensured that vital services were delivered and day-to-day tasks were completed, but vandalism and theft exacerbated the problems that the economy faced on a macro level.

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