063 31.03.2014 Five suspects were arrested after they were caught with 36 kg of electricity cable with the street value R18 000, the men were taken to the Kliptown police station. Picture: Itumeleng English

Durban - Durban families face the burden of having to repair and replace appliances more frequently with the alarming increase in cable theft and vandalism of substations.

Power surges linked to cable theft are destroying household appliances.

The eThekwini Municipality revealed that it was being inundated with complaints from the public about power outages resulting from cable theft, which cost the city about R230 million a year.

Aside from the costs, children had lost their lives after touching uninsulated electrical wires.

The eThekwini mayor, James Nxumalo, said cable theft resulted in damage to power infrastructure and communication lines and led to negative perceptions among potential investors.

“The scourge of illegal electricity connections and cable theft has been an ongoing challenge in the municipality,” he said.

Glenwood resident Louisa Whitfield said they recently had an outage for more than 24 hours. She said she had to buy a new dishwasher after the board on her dishwasher was damaged in a power surge.

“When it happens, it sounds like a gunshot. We have had to repair our computer, PlayStation, radio, microwave and other appliances,” she said.

According to Whitfield, what caused the problem was that substations were not properly secured.

“There are wooden slats and all they do is break the wood to get in.

“We are between a rock and a hard place as ratepayers, because we have to pay the costs every time cables get stolen,” she said.

Mthethwa said the municipality had previously deployed security guards in areas where cable theft was common, “but this initiative was discontinued, as a guard was shot dead”.

Glenwood mother Liz Govender, who drives to work every day, complained about traffic lights regularly being out of order, particularly at the intersection of Rick Turner (Francois) and Umbilo roads.

“A lot of people are affected. Businesses also lose money when there’s no power,” she said.

Four men were arrested in Inanda, north of Durban, in the early hours of Tuesday after being caught with copper cables.

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane confirmed the incident. He said the suspects, aged between 26 and 46, were facing charges of possession of stolen property, in terms of the Second Hand Goods Act.

He said the cables, with a value of about R40 000, belonged to the eThekwini Municipality.

“The suspects will appear in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court today (Wednesday),” he said.

Last week, AfriForum laid a charge at the Hillcrest police station against electricity thieves from the Stockville Valley informal settlement in Gillitts.

AfriForum spokesman Werner Beineke said this was after repeated electricity outages due to an additional load on the power network, which was caused by illegal power connections in the informal settlement.

The Mercury