Tight court security for alleged cable thieves

NINETEEN alleged members of a cable theft syndicate appeared in the regional court on Friday amidst tight security. No members of the public were granted access to the courtroom for the accuseds’ appearance. Hawks prosecutor, Annelize Harrison, said their cases would be joined under the umbrella of a single indictment.

The Witness was told that the high security at court was made necessary due to the fact that some of the accused faced additional charges of escaping from custody on previous occasions.

All the accused were being held in custody awaiting trial after either failing in or abandoning their bail applications. They have allegedly been linked to syndicates that target electrical and railway networks nationwide, costing the economy millions of rands in damage.

During a recent bail application held in Pietermaritzburg, investigator, Nico Smith of Combined Private Investigations told the court that KZN had experienced an increase in cable theft since June last year. Following an Eskom power failure in Hilton on July 18 last year four accused in that case — who were linked to the syndicate — were arrested following a high speed car chase. At the scene where high voltage Eskom conductor cables were cut, investigators had found rolls of cables and recovered a hacksaw and bolt cutters.

Smith testified that although the cable (worth R720 000) was recovered, it could not be used again and had to be replaced. The Witness reported recently that thieves had almost caused the collapse of the main power feed from Eskom to Msunduzi by removing bolts and steel cross-bars at the base of an electrical pylon at Camps Drift. The pylon was in danger of toppling over which would have resulted in a power blackout lasting days or weeks.

Residents were warned to expect planned night-time power outages over the past weekend, while urgent repairs were conducted at an estimated cost of R1 million. The case against the alleged cable thieves was postponed to April 25 pending further investigations.