R500 vs R1million

2013-01-25 00:00

FOR a mere R500, thieves almost caused the collapse of the main power feed from Eskom to Msunduzi, which would have resulted in a city-wide blackout that could have lasted days or even weeks.

The disaster was narrowly averted thanks to an alert citizen and the recent storm.

However, it will now cost the city more than a million rand to repair the damage.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma yesterday took journalists on a hair-raising ride along a roughly hewn path through Camps Drift to examine the leaning pylon and see at first hand the brazen action of the thieves.

On the way he related how the storm had saved the city.

Someone in the area had noticed that instead of standing upright, one of the pylons was leaning to one side. The electricity department was alerted and technicians were dispatched.

When they got to the site, they found that all the bolts in the lower half of the pylon and the steel cross-bars at the base had been removed.

Zuma said the massive structure would not have been able to balance in that manner for long before it toppled.

He believed that the recent storm had already nudged it into a tilt and the municipality was alerted to the pending disaster in time.

Msunduzi electricity process manager Sabata Nomaganga said Eskom was immediately called in and equipment was hired to cut a path through the bush around Camps Drift to gain access to the pylon.

Eskom secured the leaning tower with steel stays. Work on repairing the line will be done over weekends, starting next weekend.

Nomaganga said that the city’s electricity would be switched off during the weekends for the repairs to be carried out. Residents would be alerted beforehand.

Zuma said they had learnt that the steel crossbars would fetch just R500 at a scrap metal dealership.

The city hired a front-end loader at a cost of more than R50 000 to flatten a path to the pylon, and the reinstallation cost is estimated at over R1 million.

“Our infrastructure is being plundered by thieves,” said Zuma.

“We need a more active citizenry to be alert to all of this and report theft.

“Scrap dealers must not buy the metal, including manhole covers, but should report the thefts.”

It was Msunduzi residents who would foot the bill for the repair, he added.

“In this case, for R500 in someone’s pocket, the city and its residents will end up paying millions.”

Zuma said it was clear that the thieves were professionals. They had the right equipment and clearly knew what they were doing in removing the bolts, he said.

Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said the theft of steel from pylons was a fairly new and alarming development. Copper and cable theft were common, but the incidence of theft from pylons was increasing. Joffe said the Eskom security team working on the matter with the police believed that the thefts could be attributed to dramatic increases in steel prices on local and international markets.

She said the government, parastatals and the private sector were jointly conducting a number of initiatives to curb infrastructure theft.

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