Ward councillor addresses cable theft in Honeydew

Ward 97 councillor, Leah Knott, explained that 55 per cent of outages are due to human action for which City Power cannot 'pre-plan'. Photo: File

Cable theft has become an increasing issue over recent years and places a huge strain on not only residents and policing/ security forums but also on the City in terms of the unplanned cost of repairing the damage.

During a recent councillors’ forum with City Power it was stated that 40 per cent of our power outages can be attributed to cable theft and 15 per cent to accidents involving motorists. Thus 55 per cent of outages are due to occurrences related to human action for which City Power cannot ‘pre-plan’.

The cost to replace a metre of cable ranges from R1 000 to R1 400, and equates to about R14 million annually (roughly 10 000 meters of cable are stolen on an annual basis). This doesn’t include the damage caused to sub-stations as a result of this theft. Replacement of a 40 megavolt-amp transformer costs in between R15 and R20 million, while repair of a 33 kilovolt oil cable costs approximately R600 000 per joint, including material.

Cable thieves have become organised and work in syndicates. Four security officials working in the City Power Risk Department have been murdered by these thieves this year alone. City Power Risk has a patrol vehicle in high risk areas but it doesn’t cover large areas. The department also works with private security companies as well as police to curb cable theft. This department has advised that it requires a specialised unit for this purpose and the Department of Environment and Infrastructure Services is working on realising this need but it requires resources, liaison with criminal intelligence units and funding, so it cannot be resolved overnight.

The theft of cables often results in the cable exploding. This affects the transformers, which take time to replace and often results in power being switched on and off in order to work on the line. These are not separate outages – they’re related to the same incident.

Over the past five years, the City has spent R267 million replacing bare overhead cables with aerial bundle conductors (AB) made of aluminium in order to curb cable theft as it is less valuable than copper. This replacement has occurred in 988 streets but accounts for a mere 12 per cent of the designated streets. Currently City Power is rolling out these AB conductors in Hoëveld Road, Coleen Road, Pierre Street and Deysel Road, all of which which were recently affected by cable theft. This roll-out commenced on 6 July.

The replacement of underground copper cables with aluminium is ongoing and has occurred in streets such as Glover Road in Ruimsig. However, this has not deterred thieves, as either one of two things now happens. The thieves cut into the cables over certain distances to find copper cables, and although they don’t steal the aluminium cable, cutting causes damage resulting in an outage, and the cables have to be replaced. Alternatively, the thieves actually steal the aluminium cabling and use it to make all sorts of items, the most recent being cooking pots that are sold on the roadside. The main issue with such pots is that the metal remains untreated and people are now at risk from a health perspective.

All suspicious activity can be reported to City Power Risk on 011 490 7553/ 011 490 7911/ 011 490 7900 or their toll free number, 080 000 3251.

Ward 97 councillor, Leah Knott, writes:

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