Infrastructure vandalism from July to date has cost City Power a whopping R65 million.
The power utility said this does not include the cost associated with revenue it is not collecting when the lights are off due to vandalism, or the cost to customers, especially businesses, that lose millions of rand.
Asked about the people or forces behind these rampant attacks, City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said: “These are mostly external criminals, some may be working with contractors who know where the cables are running. There is no information suggesting involvement of employees or politicians.”
The power utility said there has been a significant increase in the number of vandalism and theft incidents across Johannesburg, raising grave concern.
“The Star” this week reported that the SAPS identified major roads being a breeding ground for criminals, who steal and hijack cars and valuables belonging to motorists who drive in Johannesburg roads.
City Power is responsible for the streetlights across the City of Johannesburg, including on the main roads such as the M1, M2, and Eskom-supplied areas, where they do new installations and regular maintenance.
The entity said it has a serious problem of vandalism on its street lights and theft of infrastructure such as fittings, pole covers, copper wires inside the poles, bulbs and overhead aluminium bundle cables which are used for illegal connections in most informal settlements across the city.
Mangena said another act of vandalism of worrying proportions were lights -- including new ones along the likes of Kliprivier Drive, Malibongwe towards Lanseria, Kibler Park-Southgate road - being mowed down, cut and left on the side of the road, often with nothing stolen.
Mangena confirmed that they have reported these to the police as they believe it is an organised crime bordering on sabotage of the state. During their patrols and investigations, they picked up this trend and ensured that perpetrators are arrested.
“We always replace these lights and repair the bits stolen from them, but we can't keep up with the rampant vandalism, some of which look deliberately done by criminals who thrive in dark streets.
“We fix it today, tomorrow it's fiddled with again so that the streets remain dark to enable them to rob, hijack and attack communities,” he said.
Mangena said their security was patrolling some of their network, including the streetlights, but they believe the police who often patrol these roads and stop suspicious cars and people, are best-positioned to make arrests in the situation.
“We also appeal to communities to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement agencies and report any activity around electricity infrastructure, including the streetlights,” said Mangena.
Last month, the SA Local Government Association (Salga) revealed that municipalities spend billions to repair or replace stolen and vandalised electricity network.
“Municipalities are incurring an annual average of R1 107 583 200 on staff overtime and contractors during load shedding,” the Salga report said.
Gauteng Provincial SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Mavela Masondo said one of the biggest challenges was the lack of lighting on a number of roads in Gauteng.
“An instruction has been issued for all SAPS marked vehicles deployed at night to conduct blue light patrols to increase visibility,” Masondo said.
The police have urged the community, motorists in particular, to be vigilant on the roads and report when they suspect any criminal activities. They can call the crime stop number on 08600 10111.