Copper theft cripples Midlands

2011-08-03 00:00

THE spate of copper theft in and around the Midlands area, that has left numerous communities without phones, has raised concerns of a copper theft syndicate targeting the area.

The largely farming communities in the Midlands have had to operate without phones for months at a time.

Telkom said that replacing stolen phone lines is a process that cannot be done overnight.

Last year, the Baynesfield community near Richmond was left without telephone lines for over four months after they were stolen.

Last month, thieves removed more than a kilometre of phone lines in the Lidgetton area near Howick. It was also reported that the community around Nottingham Road was being targeted and on Monday thieves stole phone lines near the Midmar Dam area, leaving businesses there cut off.

John Poltera, owner and moderator of Fern Hill Hotel and International Hotel School, said his businesses were badly affected by the theft.

He said Telkom informed him that they are only likely to reconnect the phones by December.

He said they can no longer receive and make calls out from Fern Hill, receive or send e-mails and their security had been compromised as there is no way of receiving calls from their security officers in Howick when an emergency arises.

“The students at our college can no longer use the Internet as part of their syllabus. We can no longer communicate with the many initiatives we have started in Mpophomeni and Howick,” said Poltera.

He said Telkom ought to look at other initiatives to protect their lines.

“I would be willing to assist Telkom in their quest to stop cable theft, by offering to use a ‘ditchwitch’ [a machine to dig trenches for laying pipes] to make a trench to house piping.”

He said the widespread theft had raised concerns that the area is being targeted.

“We are worried that a syndicate might be operating here,” he said.

Pynee Chetty spokesperson at Telkom said the theft of copper wires was a widespread problem which they were working hard to deal with.

On Poltero’s offer, Chetty said while they would welcome any offer for help by their customers, it would be hard to accept the offer as there are a number of complicated processes that would have to be undertaken to bury the cable.

He said he could not divulge which areas in the Midlands had their lines stolen as that would increase the security risks around those areas.

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