New cable theft solution

2014-10-07 00:00

BUSINESS owners in Shortts Retreat Road have pioneered a new way to stop cable theft — they paid for the right to “shelter” government infrastructure.

The four local businesses south of Pietermaritzburg are now saving over R10 million a month — after spending a grand total of just R5 500 each.

In a rule-bending idea supported “in principle” by the Durban-based chapter of Business Against Crime, the Shortts Retreat Road businesses now control and secure access to a part of the publically-owned power grid.

The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce said the four neighbouring businesses were crippled by power outages for days every month until August.

In addition to regular cable theft, a criminal gang was attaching illegal connection cables to the street’s municipal power network — three municipal transformers and a substation — “literally every day”.

One company, a blanket factory, had 300 workers who lost wages every month when the outages shut down the operation.

Other companies, Cummins Filtration and MS Group, were told that, given attacks on scores of mini-sub stations around the city, there was little more the municipality could do to secure the equipment.

Then Chamber CEO Melanie Veness made a radical proposal: that access to the ratepayer-owned substation and transformers be physically taken inside the private businesses, where their 24-hour security could stop the attacks.

In a creative decision praised yesterday by the South African Local Government Association, Msunduzi municipality agreed, with minor conditions.

Shaaz Moosa, MD of MS Group Holdings, said: “We have not had one single outage or illegal connection or cable theft since that intervention, almost three months ago. This was a highly creative solution that worked. We are grateful the municipality recognised the reality and the value of the solution.”

Moosa said the businesses initially relocated the municipal transformers into their yards, but that thieves then broke into the brick structure housing the substation.

“So we bricked up the substation’s entrance and created a new access from within the business property inside,” he said.

Moosa said ratepayers’ money could not be used for the change, but that the total cost to the four companies was just R22 000.

He said the key condition was that Msunduzi Electricity officials be guaranteed 24-hour access to their infrastructure.

Veness said the success offered a model for businesses bordering substations and mini-subs throughout KZN and South Africa.

South Africa’s cable theft guru — municipal consultant Rens Bindeman — said there were a number of cases where business owners had either secured mini-subs with patrolling guards, or lobbied to have them relocated within police station properties.

However, he could not immediately recall any cases where access to public infrastructure had been physically relocated onto private property.

Naeem Rahiman, KZN manager of Business Against Crime, said there were some legal questions over public property on private land. But he said cable theft was such a massive threat to Durban’s economy that the BAC would explore the idea with its members.

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