On Tuesday, South African parastatal Eskom, arrested five suspects in connection with the theft of underground cables in Cosmo City, north of Johannesburg. The stolen equipment, which included five metres of underground copper cable and various other electrical equipment, was estimated at ZAR10,000 ($633).

According to the power utility, the company received a tipoff regarding plans to steal electricity cables along Malibongwe Drive near Zantspruit and Cosmo City in the Randburg area.

Having reported selling stolen cables to scrap dealers in Kliptown, Soweto, the five in question have been “highly active” in the Randburg, Devland and Soweto areas, the power company said in a statement.

Eskom continues to fight crime

With an unemployment rate estimated at 27.7%, these acts of crime are on the rise, where companies such as Eskom are vastly exposed.

Eskom explained its vulnerability to include “the theft of overhead lines, underground cables, airdac and bundle conductors, earthing equipment, transformers, pylon support lattices and so forth.”

“The value of material stolen remains a serious concern, as it is indicative of organised, syndicate-driven criminal activity in the conductor theft environment, which is also experienced by other state-owned enterprises,” the utility added.

Upcoming security and surveillance

The fight against network equipment theft is being addressed by means of intelligence driven investigations by the Hawks, a division of the South African Police Service (SAPS), which encompasses aggressive policing of the scrap metal market for stolen goods.

The utility noted that the courts are also taking this crime seriously and significant sentences are being handed out to perpetrators.

A joint industry working group, formed by Eskom, Transnet, Telkom, SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority, Business Against Crime and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), continues to contribute positively in the fight against this crime.