Durban - Since the start of the year, KwaZulu-Natal police have responded to at least 17 cases of copper cable theft.
In the last four months, 11 people have been arrested for allegedly stealing copper cables belonging to Transnet, Prasa, Telkom and the eThekwini Municipality. Of the 11 nabbed, two are high ranking police officials.
In the latest arrest, three suspects were arrested.
KZN police spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbele, said Malvern police officers were alerted to theft of copper cables at the Northdene Road railway station.
She said officers proceeded to the area and upon arrival, they observed three men who had been chased on the railway line by the security officer.
"Upon seeing the police officers, the suspects fled in different directions. Police gave chase and managed to arrest three suspects aged between 21 and 28. Copper cables and a bolt cutter were recovered at the scene. The suspects are due to appear before the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court for tampering and damaging the essential infrastructure and theft," she said.
In July, four men were arrested after the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team recovered cables valued at around R300 000.
Hawks spokesperson, Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo, said members allegedly received information about the suspects who were in possession of stolen copper cables.
"A joint operation was then conducted and the suspects were allegedly stopped whilst they were on their way to the scrapyard. They were taken to their place of residence in Fynnland where more cables were found," he said.
In June, two men were arrested after police officers were conducting foot patrols at the Mount Edgecombe Railway line when they spotted two men cutting and pulling something from the railway line.
"The men were arrested and police officers recovered 33 metres of copper cable and maize meal bags with 5kg of copper cable. The total value of the recovered copper is R5 000. The stolen property was positively identified as the property of Transnet," said KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala.
In June, two police officers and a tow truck driver were arrested with stolen cables.
Mbele said three suspects aged between 29 and 44 were placed under arrest for possession of copper cables, tampering and damaging the essential infrastructure.
"Among the suspects that were arrested were two sergeants stationed at Umlazi SAPS. It was established that the copper cables belonged to Telkom. The estimated street value is R267 486. The docket was taken by the Hawks who took over the investigation," she said.
eThekwini Municipality has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on cable theft.
"South Africa is facing a major problem with copper theft and has a negative impact on all citizens. The estimated loss due to copper theft is approximately R5 billion per year with eThekwini Electricity contributing R60 million to that loss. It has an impact on the City’s communication network, electricity supply, and railway and traffic services," the City said.
A task team was set up in 2009 to tackle ongoing issues of copper cable theft.
Who to call if you are aware of cable theft:
Electricity’s call centre 080 13 13 111
Cable Theft Hotline 031 311 9611
Metro Emergency Line 031 361 0000