Gang targets Melmoth’s sub-stations

2012-10-09 00:00

WHAT is presumed to be the same gang of copper thieves hit the town of Melmoth three times in 24 hours last week, leaving the area without an operating water purification plant.

The emergency operations room was also affected.

Large parts of the town and nearby Thubulethu were without power, after the attacks on three separate sub-stations.

The first attack, in the early hours of Thursday morning, left farms and a few residents in the dark.

Local businessman and farmer Leon Beukes said they were first alerted to the power cut at about 3 am, when the beeping from their grandchild’s baby monitor signalled the power cut.

However, they did not report it immediately as power cuts are not uncommon in Melmoth. One of his staff members who rose early saw that the sub-station’s doors were open.

Beukes said power had been restored by 8.30 am.

Jaap le Grange, chief electrical engineer of Mthonjaneni, said eight metres of four-core ECC cable had been stolen in the raid on the sub-station.

Another 10 metres of copper cable was stolen at sub-station S, about three kilometres away, and another four metres was later stolen from the Melmoth Cartage sub-station.

Although the cable itself costs R95 per metre, it is time-consuming to restore the system, resulting in high labout costs.

The second attack, at around 2.30 am on Friday, hit Melmoth Protection Services’ ops room and the RTI testing grounds. A generator was switched on in order not to interrupt emergency services. The third attack, at the Melmoth Cartage sub-station hit the business, Thubulethu and the uThungulu water purification plant.

They remained without power for most of the day, as engineers worked on several sabotaged sub-stations. Power to the third sub-station was restored at about 4 pm on Friday.

Ntokozo Ngubane, who lives in Thubulethu and is a clerk at Melmoth Cartage, experienced the power cut from the time he got up in the morning, and for the whole day at work, on Friday.

He said: “When I got up at 6 am there was no power.” Then, when he got to work, the power at the business, situated on the old Babanango main road, was also without power. It was restored at around 4.30 pm.

Le Grange believes the thefts were “the same person (or gang) running through the town hitting all sub-stations”. He said the modus operandi in removing the cable was the same in all three cases, and it was obviously done by a “technically minded” person.

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