Alleged cable thief sustains severe flash injuries

Alleged cable thief sustains severe flash injuries

GK CRONJE

8 September 2020

According to the statement, MLM had also replaced an approximate 10 kiosks that burnt since January 2019. Some of the kiosks and mini substations doors were / are removed/ stolen by the community members. MLM also stated that it has lost R4 million from November 2018 to October 2019, due to cable theft. According to the municipality, the expenditures derails the maintenance process, hence the shoddy state of the substations and kiosks within its area of governance.

Four men, of which one sustained severe electrical burns, have been admitted to Ermelo Provincial Hospital over the weekend for treatment. According to the information at hand, the men attempted to loot an exposed substation in Chris de Villiers Street. The substation in question has been a topic of debate, as it is one of the myriad of substations that are without covers or lids, with the exposed electrical circuitry begging to be tampered with, or stolen. The injured suspect sustained extensive electrical burns on his arms, torso and lower areas, aggravated by his clothing set alight by the electrical flash. According to information at hand at time of publication, the man survived the sustained injuries. The issue of substations being subjected to lack of maintenance by Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) for extended periods of time is long standing, and is yet to be fully addressed by MLM.

This particular substation has been targeted by thieves on various occasions, with businesses in the surrounding area suffering the damages caused by outages. With the exposed substations ripe for the picking, ponderous cable thieves have ample time to prepare, and strike during the rolling municipal load shedding, which takes place according to a published schedule. This makes life easier for prowling criminal elements, looking for an easy score. MLM is plagued by continuous cable theft in its various wards, with cables being spliced under a shroud of darkness due to non-working street lights, and even in the light of day, should criminals be brazen enough.

Events such as this cause extended outages in wards, with residents suffering the aftermath of criminality. Cable theft is also a major expenditure within MLM’s budget, with residents often sitting in the dark for hours as technical teams scramble to acquire the necessary material for cable repairs. In previous statements, MLM has confirmed that several dockets pertaining to cable theft are active at the SAPS, but investigations are time consuming, and does little to buffer the crippling expenditure suffered by the municipality. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa NERSA requires mini-substations to be free of rust, and be locked as to be of no safety risk to the public. It is also expected by NERSA that municipalities keep substations and mini-substations painted, numbered and marked correctly, and that hazard signs be clearly displayed. This is not the case in Ermelo. NERSA mandates that, upon request, records must be provided of all emergency maintenance, regular maintenance and preventative maintenance that have been performed. Formal inspections of the network must also be presented upon request, although drive-through inspections may be accepted.

In October 2019, MLM responded to the enquiries regarding the dilapidated substations, and stated that MLM has an approximate 880 kiosks and mini-substations. According to MLM, at the time of response, MLM had repaired 153 kiosks and mini substations over the course of 12 months, at an approximate cost of R500 000.00. According to the statement, MLM had also replaced an approximate 10 kiosks that burnt since January 2019. Some of the kiosks and mini substations doors were / are removed/ stolen by the community members. MLM also stated that it has lost R4 million from November 2018 to October 2019, due to cable theft. According to the municipality, the expenditures derails the maintenance process, hence the shoddy state of the substations and kiosks within its area of governance. Since the last response in October 2019, MLM has kept mum as to the daily degradation and lack of maintenance of substations and kiosks, despite enquiries on several occasions. MLM issued a statement, which read as follows: “The municipality, through the electrical section, received an information from the police that three men were electrocuted near Chris De Villiers Street, and they were already in Ermelo Provincial Hospital. It alleged that the five men were attempting to steal cables in the area, where two of them escaped unharmed. Cable theft and illegal connections costs the municipality (rate payers) millions of Rands, and may also lead to death to those who steal or connect illegal. Innocent or unsuspecting people may be in danger of the unprotected electrical wires. Cable theft is one of the causes of delay in restoring power after power outages. The municipality appeals to the community to immediately report any suspicious persons next to electricity apparatus to the municipality or police.” Information obtained from the SAPS Communication Department regarding the incident stated that MLM did not open a case against the alleged cable thieves. Residents are urged to report suspicious activity at substations and kiosks to the SAPS on 017 819 7803, to ACSU on 017 811 1274, or inform the neighborhood watch in their sector or ward

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