By Masilo Malakwane
QWAQWA – There has been an escalation of power cable theft in Maluti-a-Phofung local municipality as more and more people resort to scrap metal recycling to escape poverty.
On Monday this week, Phuthaditjhaba police arrested four suspects in possession of stolen copper cables after a tip-off led the police to the discovery of massive electrical cables and transformers hidden under a heap of metal scrap at a Botjhabela village scrapyard.
The suspects include a scrapyard owner who is believed to be a Zimbabwean national, and three of his employees. The four suspects Zimbabwean national Zeki Zika (38), Madile Motsoeneng (28), Japie Mongali (23) and Thabo Molefe (25) and have already made their first appearance in court.
They were found in possession of 484 kilograms of copper and 445 kilograms of aluminium which were reportedly stolen from the municipality’s substations.
Some of the municipality’s broken transformers were also found recovered from the scrapyard where the equipment is reported to be auctioned at R100,000 each.
Maluti-a-Phofung Executive Mayor, Gilbert Mokotso told The Guard that the damage to municipal substations and power lines due to theft was beyond repair.
“Cables were being stolen at an alarming rate and the thieves sometimes chopped down our cables and vandalised our transformers. Now our people are becoming the real victims of constant power outages because of these criminals.
“We do not rule out the possibility of a syndicate targeting municipal electrical cables. Investigations are under way. This syndicate could be made up of individuals who operate metal recycling businesses at the expense of stolen municipal property,” Mokotso said.
Meanwhile, the Member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for finance, Cllr Azael Nhlapo, told this publication that the municipality is losing millions of rands to cable theft and electricity related matters.
“We are worried that we are being forced to spend lots and lots of money on replacing stolen cables and transformers due to vandalism. We hope this arrest will send a strong message to those involved in cable theft and deliberately vandalising our electricity infrastructure; we are coming for them” said Nhlapo.