Farmers’ union ready to sue Telkom

2011-06-30 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL agriculture union Kwanalu is considering legal action against Telkom because of the company’s poor client service.

Kwanalu alleges that Telkom has failed to curb the theft of telephone cables, which has increased at a frightening rate over the years and is having a detrimental effect on farmers’ business operations and their safety.

Several farming communities in the midlands have complained that they are forced to survive without phones for months at a time as Telkom struggles to replace stolen lines.

Last year a farming community in Baynesfield spent more than three months without phone lines.

Two weeks ago thieves stole 1,5 kilometres of telephone cable in the Howick rural area and several farming and tourism businesses have been without telephone lines since.

Kwanalu president Robin Barnsley said the problem is so widespread in the midlands that farmers suspect a syndicate is operating there.

“They stole over a kilometre of telephone lines; other rural parts of Howick such as Lidgetton and Lions River have also been affected.”

Barnsley said he himself has been without a phone for the past two weeks and it is affecting his farming enterprise.

“We sell directly to suppliers, and because this area has poor cellphone reception we rely on telephone lines. Now we cannot do business as the retailers cannot get in contact with us.”

There are also security concerns: “We need [phones] to communicate during any emergencies.”

Barnsley said his members are concerned about the poor service offered by Telkom.

“We are contemplating legal action against Telkom based on the Consumer Protection Act for the poor service they offer to their clients.”

While farmers understand that there is a problem with theft of telephone lines, Telkom has a responsibility to take steps to protect its assets.

“As I understand it Telkom has the technology to detect when their wires are being cut.

“How long does it take to cut and load over a kilometre of heavy wire? Telkom should have been able to detect that when it happened.”

Telkom said in statement yesterday that the increase in copper cable theft is a national problem and that it “is creating an environment of a rapidly deteriorating service quality”.

It said it has taken steps to curb the theft, including alarming critical and sensitive cable routes and employing armed security firms.

It is also installing various wireless technologies, implementing a national campaign to raise awareness of the company’s toll-free crime-report line and engaging the government to reclassify copper either as a semi-precious or precious metal and the theft of copper cable as sabotage.

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