Intelligence Operation Nets 15 Cable Theft Suspects, Including City Power Workers

An intelligence operation led by City Power and law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of 15 suspects involved in cable theft in Johannesburg. Among the suspects are City Power security guards, highlighting an ongoing issue of criminal activity within the organization.

In a significant breakthrough, an intelligence operation conducted over the weekend in Johannesburg led to the arrest of 15 individuals suspected of cable theft. This operation, a collaborative effort between City Power and law enforcement agencies, was spearheaded by the SAPS Essential Infrastructure Task Team.

Among the 15 suspects, nine were security guards contracted to City Power, a utility provider for the region. These suspects now face serious charges, including theft and tampering with ferrous metals, which are critical components of the city’s electrical infrastructure.

Six of the suspects appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Notably, this group included City Power security guards Bongani Mtshali (43), a supervisor, Tony Nkwashu (26), and Musawenkosi Mngube (26). They were accompanied by Thabo Moyo (25), Interest Paija (28), and Bernard Ncube (26), all from Zimbabwe. The case has been postponed to July 8.

Criminal activities involving City Power contractors and employees have been a persistent issue. In a statement to the Daily Maverick, City Power highlighted the organized nature of these syndicates. They suspect these groups possess substantial resources, including high-powered weapons and advanced tools, to target valuable infrastructure. The stolen copper cables are particularly lucrative on the black market, fetching high prices at scrapyards.

In recent months, the impact of cable theft has been severe. In May, a section of the M1 highway in Newtown was closed for several hours after a fire broke out in a tunnel due to cable theft. In April, a City Power contractor was arrested for illegally reconnecting a customer with a debt of R3.8 million.

Statistics reveal a worrying trend, with City Power recording 1,644 incidents of cable theft and vandalism in the 2017/18 financial year. This number increased to 2,347 incidents in the 2022/23 financial year, resulting in 278 arrests. The financial toll has been staggering, with City Power incurring losses exceeding R160 million this year alone.

Hotspots for cable theft and vandalism include Randburg, Roodepoort, Johannesburg’s inner city, and Lenasia. The utility has expressed concerns over the involvement of its employees in these crimes. Recent intelligence indicates a potential link between illegal mining activities and copper cable theft, as displaced individuals from illegal mining operations may resort to infrastructure theft for financial gain.

The Johannesburg inner city, with its extensive network of underground tunnels and over 80 manholes, has become a prime target for these criminal activities. In response, City Power has appealed to the national police commissioner, Lieutenant General Fani Masemola, for urgent intervention to curb the escalating theft and vandalism affecting their infrastructure.

City Power has implemented several measures to combat this menace. These include integrated security systems with alarms, CCTV cameras, and access control systems. They have also deployed new security contractors specializing in intelligence and advanced technology to enhance their security capabilities.

As City Power continues to strengthen its defenses against cable theft, the recent arrests serve as a reminder of the ongoing battle to protect Johannesburg’s essential infrastructure.

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