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 - It can plunge entire suburbs into darkness and kill the telephone lines to thousands of homes and businesses.

The scourge of cable theft plaguing South Africa costs Durban ratepayers around R230 million a year, the eThekwini municipality said.

Mayor James Nxumalo has vowed to clamp down on cable theft. He said cable thieves had an “inflated sense of entitlement” that would no longer be tolerated.

Cable theft not only cost the city financially but resulted in the death of many children living in informal settlements who stepped on exposed electrical wires, he said.

“It pains me to see some members of our society reducing themselves to such levels of lawlessness. The city’s ratepayers are the backbone of this municipality and they are often inconvenienced by these power outages leading to the reduced enjoyment of the services they pay for,” Nxumalo said.

Electricity and cable theft had to be stopped as it had the potential to hamper economic growth and job creation.

“The negative impacts of illegal electricity connections include the hefty costs of replacement of infrastructure and hiring security, the shutdown of business operations, loss of income and loss of exports,” he said.

In an effort to curb electricity theft, the city is rolling out electricity to informal settlements across the municipality.

Nxumalo urged residents to “demonstrate civic pride” and not vandalise municipal infrastructure.

The city has employed several initiatives to curb cable and electricity theft, including converting underground mains to overhead mains to minimise the electricity interruption and replacing overhead, bare copper low-voltage circuits with aerial bundled conductors as a deterrent to tapping exposed copper lines.

The city said it used to have security guards in areas with high cable theft incidence, but the initiative had been stopped after a guard was shot dead.

Any suspicion of cable theft should be reported to these numbers:

* Electricity’s call centre: 080 131 3111; SMS 083 700 0819

* Cable theft hotline: 031 311 9611

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