Vandalism, theft prevalent in African energy sector
by MTHULISI SIBANDA
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – STAKEHOLDERS in the power sector have called for a multi-sectoral approach to end the rampant theft and vandalism of infrastructure across the continent.
At the just-ended African Utility Week in Cape Town, South Africa, officials pointed out the prevalence of such actions, sometimes involving the of workers in the industry, was impacting negatively on service delivery and economic growth.
Rens Bendiman, the Technical Adviser at the South African Revenue Protection Association said syndicates; some with “bosses operating from jail” gave utilities sleepless nights.
“This (theft and vandalism) is urban terrorism costing nations millions per day,” he said.
“In South Africa, municipalities lose up to R380 million per year on security guards to curtail such acts of theft and vandalism.
“That is a lot of money that could be used to address the challenges of housing,” said Bendiman, adding, “It is unfortunate that some of these crimes are committed by some of our own deployed to protect the equipment.”
He proposed the use of technology to contain theft and vandalism.
Neil Arendse, Assistant Chief: Metals Theft Unit at City of Cape Town, partly blamed vandals for the incessant power outages South Africa is experiencing.
“South Africa has in recent months suffered negative publicity because of load shedding but some of it is theft-induced. In that instance, it is the criminals that should be held liable to load shedding and not Telkom,” said Arendse.
He added, “There is a serious need for serious collaborations on this serious issue. All relevant agencies, government and communities must come together to explore solutions to address this problem. The media and research organisations also have a role to play by informing us what measures have been successfully implemented where, to address the issue.”
Arendse said on its part, his agency had embarked on an exercise, held at schools in the city, to make youngsters aware of the dangers and effects on theft and vandalism of power infrastructure.
Patrick Simwinga, Product Security Manager at ZESCO, the Zambian mining firm, explained there was another form of vandalism that was costing entities substantial revenues.
“This is the non-payment of bills such that utilities are left in serious financial problems and failing to meet their obligations,” he said.
He nonetheless pointed out vandalism and theft were bigger challenges.
“These are a burden to countries that already are experiencing negative economic growth.”
Simwinga urged power entities to invest in technology to curb the problem.
He also proposed collaborations among the power utilities, community leaders and law enforcement agencies.
“The message carries more weight when civil society leaders address it to their subjects than if it were coming from us. Also as ZESCO, were are now empowered to arrest culprits and this has been successful,” said Simwinga.
– CAJ News
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