DURBAN - MORE than 3 million litres of fuel have been stolen in the current financial year by brazen criminal syndicates targeting Transnet’s fuel pipeline.
As a litre of petrol costs an average of R16, close to R50 million has been stolen in less than six months in this financial year.
The government parastatal said it was battling rampant attacks on its fuel pipeline by thieves, looking to steal fuel which is threatening the country’s economy and leading to loss of lives.
The problem is so serious that five people have been killed while 150 others were arrested in connection with attacks on its pipeline. In a statement, Transnet said increased surveillance was showing positive signs in curbing the theft.
In light of the attacks, the company has urged consumers not to purchase fuel from unregistered traders.
The Department of Public Enterprises engaged with the members of the committee of public enterprises last month, where they briefed the committee on other challenges and developments within the business.
“To date five victims have lost their lives while trying to steal fuel,” said acting chief executive Sibongiseni Khathi in a statement on behalf of Transnet Pipelines.
It was reported that in 2019, in KZN two people were found dead in a Transnet pipeline fuel bunker in Estcourt. Khathi said after implementing numerous security measures, the company was seeing positive outcomes as a number of people have been arrested.
“Increased surveillance and security measures put in place along the Transnet pipelines network is paying dividends, with a further two suspects having been arrested in Gauteng (on) Wednesday morning while attempting to steal fuel.
“The swift response of the tactical teams also resulted in the seizure of a bakkie, product containers and equipment.” Among the innovative ways being used to deal with the theft was the procurement of drone technology.
“During the current financial year, Transnet has had 50 fuel theft incidents and over 3 million litres of product have been stolen. It is encouraging that the various security, surveillance and tactical response measures are yielding positive results,” said Khathi.
He said the partnership between law enforcement agencies and the National Prosecuting Authority and contracted specialised security service providers to deal with fuel theft and tampering with critical infrastructure (product theft) “is demonstrating the commitment to halt the onslaught of criminal activities and keep our pipelines and the communities safe.
“Transnet would again like to warn that the pipelines are classified as essential infrastructure, any tampering, or colluding to tamper is a criminal offence and all perpetrators are charged accordingly.”
In an article on the Wits University website, Rod Crompton, Adjunct Professor African Energy Leadership Centre Wits Business School, warns that some of the biggest risks faced by the country’s energy supply were theft by petty criminals and organised Mafia.
The article was published in the week of riots when trucks were torched and there was widespread looting in KZN and Gauteng. He said Transnet Pipelines has reported an “unprecedented increase” in incidents of pipeline theft in recent years.
“South Africa will need to reassess its risk profiles at each link in its on-land fuel supply chain. Currently, the most vulnerable seem to be the refineries, road delivery, and the transport corridor from Durban to Gauteng – both pipeline and road.”