Picture: Tracey Adams
Picture: Tracey Adams

Cable theft costs Transnet R1.6m a day

By Sherlissa Peters Time of article published Nov 26, 2015

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Daily News - Transnet was losing more than R580 million a year to theft of overhead copper conductor cables, said investigators for the state-owned enterprise.

This was revealed in an affidavit submitted to the Pietermaritzburg High Court by Transnet Freight Rail senior investigator, Zacharias de Bruin.

De Bruin’s affidavit formed part of a high court application by the National Director of Public Prosecutions, seeking an order granting the State authority to preserve R17 700 cash linked to the theft of overhead conductor copper cables in KwaZulu-Natal.

The application was granted by Judge Jerome Mnguni on Wednesday.

De Bruin said cable theft hit the public hard, delaying on average nine trains a day. That is a total of 3 285 trains delayed a year due to the theft of overhead copper conductor cable.

The effect of this is that Transnet suffers a loss of R1.6 million a day, which translates to a total loss of R584m for a financial year.

This figure included all penalties, replacement values for materials, resources and infrastructure.

De Bruin said the thefts could also result in loss of lives, damage to infrastructure and trains colliding.

Deputy director of public prosecutions Kenneth Samuel said the R17 700 was seized by two constables who formed part of an undercover operation under the auspices of “Operation Nuclear”.

A copper cable theft syndicate was initially identified by the Combined Private Investigation team, subcontracted by Eskom and Transnet. Operation Nuclear was then launched by the SAPS.

Two constables from the Mountain Rise K9 unit, Ntokozo Ndlela and Richard Kheswa, were deployed as shadow undercover agents and infiltrated the copper cable theft syndicate.

During their time under cover, both conducted deliveries of stolen copper cables to Afro Metals at branches in Phoenix and Stanger. Both also met several people representing Afro Metals, owned by one Bashier Rashid.

On September 2, 2013, Kheswa contacted a Brian Kuppusamy, the middle man facilitating the theft and purchase of stolen copper cable between a syndicate of cable thieves and Afro Metals.

Kuppusamy has since been arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit theft.

According to Samuel, the two undercover agents called Kuppusamy and told him that they had a delivery of stolen copper.

Kuppusamy directed them to Afro Metals Stanger yard to offload the cable, and then to the Afro Metals Phoenix premises to receive payment for the stolen copper.

The stolen copper weighed 449kg and they were paid R17 700 by an Afro Metals cashier.

The stolen copper, supplied by Transnet, had been previously stolen and recovered by the police.

Samuel said while the cash in contention for the application might be small in comparison with the financial damage caused by copper theft, the forfeiture of the cash had to be seen within the context of other matters falling under Operation Nuclear.

This included further amounts of cash that had been seized and vehicles used in the theft of copper cable, which was “wrecking havoc on the economy of the country”.

Operation Nuclear has led to the arrests of 26 people, including Rashid, who is currently standing trial in Pietermaritzburg. According to the draft charge sheet, they face 189 charges, which include theft of the copper cables, racketeering, malicious damage to property and money laundering.

Rashid is on R500 000 bail.

The syndicate is alleged to have been involved in the theft of copper cables and conductors from Transnet, Telkom and Eskom.

Daily News

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