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Vandalism, copper theft now a threat to Cape Town's Sou...

South Africa


Vandalism, copper theft now a threat to Cape Town’s Southern Line, with R1m damage caused in weekend raid

Burnt poles at False Bay station where the theft of cables was prevented by security. However, damage to the mast poles and overhead electrical lines is estimated at approximately R1-million. (Picture: Brenton Geach)

Metrorail says vandalism at the False Bay station on the Southern Line will cost R1-million to repair.

Commuters on Cape Town’s Southern Line will have to make alternative transport arrangements following an instance of vandalism at the weekend that has left the line inoperable for up to a week.

Metrorail Western Cape said that on Sunday morning it responded to an ‘emergency’ at the False Bay station in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Spokesperson Nana Zenani said in a statement: “protection Services  prevented theft of an 11 kilovolt (KV) line, unfortunately the criminals threw the cut 11 kV onto live 3kv overhead electric wires.” 

The contact of the two wires resulted in further damage to four mast poles, she further explained. As a result, Metrorail won’t be able to run services on the line, particularly between Retreat and Fish Hoek. 

Zenani said R1-million-worth of damage was caused to the overhead electrical lines resulting in a week-long closure.

“These lines have in the past remained safe from vandalism…. unfortunately the vandalism seems to be threatening the Southern Line,” said Zenani. 

Elsewhere, the Central Line, which runs between Cape Town station and areas such as Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain had to be shut in November 2018 after sustained vandalism, theft of infrastructure and arson on the network. In February, the line partially reopened. Trains on the Central Line operate between Cape Town station and Langa station. 

Zenani said the root of the problem is the illicit copper trade. “We need stringent interventions and controls in respect to scrap dealing and the export of copper… relaxed regulations around the sale of copper is causing Metrorail serious harm…”.

In September, during a meeting in the National Council of Provinces, Prasa board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane said the agency was still grappling with copper theft because railway power lines were being cut and sold at scrap yards. 

Read in Daily Maverick the full extent of vandalism and theft, particularly in Cape Town: Prasa has lost ‘millions’ in income and passengers, chairman Leonard Ramatlakane tells Parliament

“If communities and businesses do not assist in stopping the rampant vandalism, the Western Cape will be without a passenger rail service … rail is the only source of mass movement and without it, commuters will continue to pay higher transportation costs,” added Zenani. DM


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  • how long will it still take for the country to realise that copper theft is destroying the economy, having already been the death knell of the railways and threatening all activities depending on any form of energy and unable to secure a 24/7 protection of electrical assets belonging to them, Eskom , municipality etc. Copper theft should be held to be sabotage of the country , and all copper scrap treated as were illicit diamonds . In fact, in such an emergency no scrap dealer should be allowed to deal in copper scrap. Yet it is understood that Cape Town is a major copper exporter, without any production in the W.Cape!

    • In order to charge people with sabotage the perpetrators have to be caught and therein lies the problem in SA. It seems that these SOEs are good at reporting the damage after the fact and at estimation the repair costs but nothing is being done about stopping it. Not at any level of government.

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