Copper thieves part of syndicate

3154864799Four alleged copper cable thieves accused of causing damage of about R800 000 since July are believed to be part of a syndicate who lived it up, blowing their money on expensive clothes, partying and entertaining women.

This emerged at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday when the men, two of whom are Mozambicans, applied for bail, which the State opposed.

They were believed to be part of a syndicate of 21 people who were recently arrested for alleged thefts that have inconvenienced thousands of Eskom clients.

Lindenkosi Wiseman Xulu, 34, Anton Chauke, 33, Moses Mashaba, 30, and Sipho Mchunu, 29, were arrested after allegedly sawing through an 88 000-volt cable at Hilton after midnight on July 17.

Eskom alerted a special investigating team which, using night-vision glasses, watched three of them roll up the cable and hide 10 rolls of it in grass and under branches.

Bakkie

The men then ran to a bakkie. The investigators and the police chased them to Mountain Rise, where they were arrested.

Former Hawks officer Nico Smith, of Combined Private Investigations, who investigates conductor cable thefts for Eskom and Telkom, said he hoped the men, and others arrested for theft at Estcourt and Elandslaagte, near Ladysmith, would be tried in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

They had been linked to thefts at various places from Elandslaagte in the north to Umkomaas in the south.

Smith said the men were brave as they had sawn through high-voltage cable at Hilton 8m above the ground. A hacksaw and other tools were recovered. Touching exposed live cable would have been fatal.

Although the cable stolen at Hilton was recovered, it could not be re-used and new cables had to be installed. Smith alleged that Xulu was linked to three other cases.

Smith said the syndicate rented rooms near the theft scenes and disappeared quickly afterwards.

The bail application continues on October 30.

Six of the 21 arrested had escaped by breaking through the roof of the Nottingham Road police station cells. One was rearrested. – Sapa