abstract-electricity-cable-wide
Cable theft is costing the South African economy an estimated ZAR5bn a year

In South Africa, Johannesburg power provider City Power, is seeking new technological solutions to mitigate the rampant vandalism of the city’s streetlights, which is costing the country millions each year.

With efforts to save electricity and reduce costs, streetlights across South Africa’s largest city have been fitted with automated timers, which turn the lights off during the day and on at night.

Streetlights prime target

The timing devices have been a target of crime in recent months, resulting in lights left running throughout the day and night, and allowing criminals to engage in illegal use of electricity, SABC news reported on Monday.

Managing Director of City Power Sicelo Xulu said: “These criminal acts hamper our efforts at providing quality service to the residents of Johannesburg and are costing the law-abiding ratepayers dearly.

“The theft and vandalism of public lighting infrastructure is not a victimless crime, but it is an act of economic sabotage against the law-abiding ratepayers of Johannesburg.

Xulu continues “The theft of and damage to timers exacerbates the power shortages we are facing as daytime illuminating street lights exert unnecessary pressure on the grid that is already constrained.”

The deliberate damage to the timing devices has significantly reduced the product lifespan of the existing lightbulbs, resulting in frequent replacement and excessive use of electricity consumption.

Cable theft costs the South African economy an estimated  ZAR5 billion a year directly and indirectly, the SABC reported.

Report acts of crime

Xulu said: “We wish to appeal to the residents of Johannesburg to report these acts of criminality and illegal connections to their nearest police station or to call City Power anonymously on the toll free number 0800 00 251 or 24 hours hotline 011 490 7553.”

City Power welcomes the proposed changes to the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill 2015, which plans to place heavier sentences on suspects convicted of cable theft, Xulu stated.

Xulu added: “We are encouraged by the gravity and urgency with which government is taking this issue, and we hope that the amendments to the Bill will be fast-tracked to bring the perpetrators of cable theft, and the syndicates behind them, to book.

“We are confident that the imposition of maximum sentences will serve as deterrence to those who selfishly regard our infrastructure as vulnerable prey and an easy source of revenue.”