City of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba

Johannesburg - Large parts of the inner city of Joburg remain in darkness this morning since Monday after thieves broke into underground tunnels to steal copper cables.

However, City Power announced this morning that environmental specialists have declared the tunnels affected by attempted cable theft, fire free of noxious gases as of last night. This has enabled technicians and electricians, early this morning, to enter the tunnels and to start with the work to repair and replace damaged and burnt cables. 

This comes after the technicians completed the assessment work which involved cleaning up the tunnels, inspecting the transformers, cables and other electrical equipment last night.

This morning City of Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba is to lead inspection of stolen city infrastructure.

Mashaba, the member of the mayoral committee (MMC)  for environment and infrastructure services,  Nico de Jager, the MMC for development planning, Funzela Ngobeni, the head of the city’s group forensic investigation department, General Shadrack Sibiya, and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) leadership will lead an inspection of seized infrastructure allegedly stolen by unscrupulous scrapyard owners.

Yesterday, two scrapyard owners were arrested for the possession of copper cables stolen from the inner city.

The arrests were made following a tip off from a member of the public to the city’s group forensic department.

Mashaba said that following an investigation, three drums loaded with the stolen copper cables were located at the scrapyards and identified by City Power engineers as the stolen cables. The owners of the scrapyard could not account for the stolen cables, which according to workers on site, had arrived earlier today.

“It is alleged that more of the stolen copper cables are at another two other scrapyards in Robertsville. One of the scrapyard owners also allegedly attempted to bribe city and law enforcement officials with R10 000 in exchange for their silence. Unfortunately for the suspect, the officials could not be swayed,” he said..

“The criminals who steal our copper cable sabotage our economy and our city, leaving businesses and homes in the dark, costing ratepayers a fortune and robbing resources from service delivery. It is estimated that 45% of the power outages in the city are caused by cable theft. I have every faith that the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies will ensure that the perpetrator faces the full might of the law. It is time to send a clear message that crime has no place within our city,” said the mayor. 

In order to combat the criminal syndicates responsible for cable theft, the city will be introducing a specialised JMPD unit whose exclusive focus will be to target these criminal who deal in in stolen copper cables. The work of combatting these syndicates requires a professionalised approach of a dedicated unit with the knowledge, skills and networks to be effective.

“Through the work of this unit, we will ensure that the thieves who steal our copper cables will be left with no choice but to find it easier to operate anywhere other than the city of Joburg.,” the mayor added. 

In another effort to combat cable theft, City Power has also initiated a process of replacing copper conductor cables with aluminum conductor cables. Criminals target copper cables by digging them up to sell to scrap metal dealers, but aluminum has little to no street value, he added.

Presently, City Power technicians and emergency management services are making every effort to gain safe access to the underground tunnels where the cables were stolen so as to start repairing and replacing damaged and burned cables so as to restore power to the affected areas as soon as it is humanly possible.

“We plead for our residents’ continued support and patience,” he concluded.

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The Star