Vandals steal ‘lifelines’

2015-07-21 06:00
A dangling piece of wire can be seen on one of the telephone cable poles after it was vandalised. About nine households were affected by the incident. 

Chevon Booysen

A dangling piece of wire can be seen on one of the telephone cable poles after it was vandalised. About nine households were affected by the incident. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Grassy Park residents have recently fallen victim to thieves of telephone cables.

Residents noticed a trend in the past month and say it is now getting out of hand. They are left at the mercy of criminals who have taken their “lifelines”.

Proportional representative councillor William Akim says the issue has gotten so bad that residents are now knocking on his door in the middle of the night to report the crimes.

“This issue has now spiked in ward 66 and it cannot go on like this. I have had people knocking on my door because they do not know where to turn,” he says.

He adds residents who have been affected by the cable theft do not have cellphones and now have no way of reaching out in an emergency.

According to Akim, residents from all over the area are experiencing these issues, including in Ottery, Parkwood and Lotus River.

One resident of Helena Road, Brian Lotters, says his telephone cables have been stolen twice in as many months.

The latest incident occurred on Saturday 4 July when a telephone pole was vandalised. “They ripped out the entire metal pole and took the wires.

This was a huge inconvenience, as it had our telephone lines cut for more than a week,” Lotters says. Nine households were affected. Telkom had the pole fixed ten days later.

“There was an incident roughly a month ago where we also had our cables stolen. At that time I was without service for an extended period as well,” he says.

Lotters says the situation was a huge “bother” for them. “I have since gone to Telkom and disconnected my landline and instead went wireless. However, this is costing me hundreds of rands more,” he says.

Akim says residents in Parkwood are at risk after their lines were stolen too.

“These people either do not have cellphones or if they do have they sometimes do not have airtime on it to make calls, especially during emergencies. It’s a huge inconvenience to them and I don’t want to think what could happen if these people are caught in an emergency situation and they have no means of communication,” he adds.

Another resident from Parkwood, who requested to remain anonymous, says she is stranded without a landline.

“Our lines were stolen during November last year and Telkom has not come out to replace it. It’s a huge inconvenience for me because I always used my landline more. Now I have to use my daughter’s cellphone,” she says.

She adds she was given an alternative handset which was cordless and could operate without a telephone line.
“But I took that phone back again. The phone never worked because whenever we tried to make a call on it it just showed emergency,’ she says.

Telkom responded to the increasing cable theft incidents saying business and residential customers are severely affected due to an alarming amount of copper cable theft that results in service interruptions.

“The severity of the impact is due to the fact that Information Communication Technology (ICT) services are a vital component to the running of businesses and an integral part of everyday living.
The increase in copper cable theft is creating an environment of a rapidly deteriorating service quality and is severely affecting the delivery of sustainable ICT services to customers. In many high-theft areas, cable is repeatedly stolen, sometimes within days after replacements or repairs,” they explain.

Telkom says they have observed a trend in the deliberately determined cycle of theft. “This is damaging businesses, depriving our customers of a basic service and, in some cases, adversely affecting their security. Of course this is affecting our capacity to deliver services within acceptable time intervals.”

In their efforts to counter the scourge of copper cable theft, Telkom has adopted various interventions, which include proactively alarming critical and sensitive cable routes and employing services of armed security firms, deploying various wireless technologies that are alternatives to copper, assessing vulnerable aerial cable routes and, where feasible, these are buried underground and also working closely with the Non-Ferrous Theft Combating Committee (NFTCC) under the auspices of Business Against Crime and the South African Police Services, to jointly find ways of protecting the cable network.

To report cable theft to Telkom contact their toll-free number on 0800 124 000.

Have you been targeted by telephone cable thieves? Tell us about your experience. Starting with the word “Post”, SMS your views to 32516?

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