Cable theft increases during load shedding

Brenthurst and other suburbs were without power for longer than expected last week due to criminals taking advantage of the outage.

Thieves were using scheduled blackouts as an opportune time to target mini substations and strip them of copper components and other valuable materials.

According to information received from Brakpan police, four incidents took place on November 9 alone. The first happened at a mini-station along Lemmer Road after patrol officers noticed the substation doors open and stopped around 1:10 am to investigate.

They discovered that the cables had been cut and stolen. Another incident was reported after coils rated at R350,000 were stolen from a transformer in a mini-substation at the corner of Tweedy and Gate streets in Brenthurst.

The thieves also damaged the fence and the gate to access the substation. This incident was reported at 7:44 am.

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Officers interviewed residents in the surrounding area and were informed that there had been a load shedding the night before from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

A woman reported that her dog barked during the night near the back of the house where the substation is located. It was also reported that five men were picking up and loading pieces of copper into a gray Hyundai bakkie near the scene around 6:30 a.m. that morning.

A mini-station along Millicent Street in Brenthurst was also targeted. Again, the thieves damaged the door to access it.

While some cables have been cut, but not removed, there has been significant damage and it is reported that a new transformer is needed at a cost of R350,000.

It is not known when the theft occurred, but video footage from a CCTV camera in the area captured an explosion at the substation when power returned after a load shedding.

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A fourth vandalized and stripped mini-post was reported to Brakpan police at 5:18 p.m. This substation, which will have to be completely replaced at a cost of R600,000, is located along Elsburg Road, near Carnival City.

All copper cables were stolen and the transformer was removed from the substation. A chain and rope were left at the scene and the transformer top cover was found about 100 meters away in the surrounding bush.

Cases of infrastructure tampering and theft of non-ferrous metals are being investigated.
Brandon Pretorius, councilor for Ward 97 in Brakpan, told the Herald that his biggest concern about the incidents was the destruction of vital infrastructure.

“It seems that the mini substations that were vandalized were not for financial reasons but rather for sheer destruction,” he said.

“This is the first time in my five years of service as an advisor to Brakpan that I have seen something of this nature.

“The load-shedding obviously made it easy for thieves / vandals to accomplish what they intended to do, as there is no electrical current during the implementation of the load-shedding.

“Another concern in this regard is the fact that mini substations are not something stocked in numbers and are quite difficult to find. They also come with a hefty price tag.

Pretorius believes the residents were lucky this time around as power was restored in less than two days.

“If something like this were to happen again anytime soon in another area, residents might not be so lucky and the wait for repairs could range from a few days to several weeks,” he said.

“It is therefore my plea for residents to be more vigilant and aware of their environment, especially during power cuts.

“It is now also our responsibility to ensure the security of our infrastructures. Local community policing forums have been notified and have already started implementing routes to try to prevent such problems. “

He urged residents with information about the thefts or the perpetrators to come forward. Meanwhile, Eskom reported that eight people were arrested for theft and vandalism of electrical infrastructure in Gauteng between October and November.

The arrests follow Eskom’s efforts to deal with growing incidents of illegal electricity-related activity in the province.

Two suspects died from electrocution while tampering with electrical equipment in separate incidents. The arrests of the suspects were made as a result of a partnership between Eskom, SAPS and members of various communities as they understand the impact this has on their lives, the economy and Eskom’s ability to provide them with services.

According to Eskom, the theft of copper costs the economy between R 5 and 7 billion a year, and Eskom spends around R 2 billion a year to replace stolen cables.

Eskom in Gauteng continues to strengthen security in wireless access areas in its supply areas, as cable theft often results in prolonged power outages and compromises the quality of supply, which affects businesses, essential services, as well as the daily life of society. .

Such criminal acts result in loss of income for Eskom, are not sustainable for the economy and endanger the lives of innocent people, including those of the perpetrators.

“We are studying and implementing alternative measures that will help us prevent theft and vandalism of our equipment. “We would also like to thank the communities who report such acts to Eskom and SAPS,” said Kith Maitisa, Head of Safety, Health, Environment, Quality and Safety at Eskom.

“Together with law enforcement, we will ensure that these criminals are arrested and brought to justice.”

Members of the public are urged to report criminal activity, such as illegal connections, theft and vandalism of electrical infrastructure to authorities or to the Eskom Crime Line on 0800 112 722.

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