Copper thieves part of syndicate

2012-10-09 18:15

Pietermaritzburg - Four alleged copper cable thieves accused of causing damage of about R800 000 since July were part of a syndicate, the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court heard on Tuesday.

The men, two of them Mozambicans, were applying for bail, which the State was opposing.

They were believed to be part of a syndicate of 21 people who were recently arrested.

Lindenkosi Wiseman Xulu, 34, Anton Chauke, 33, Moses Mashaba, 30, and Sipho Mchunu, 29, were arrested after allegedly sawing through an 88 000 volt cable at Hilton after midnight on 17 July.

Eskom alerted a special investigating team which approached the scene and, using night-vision glasses, watched three of them roll up the cable and hide 10 rolls of it in grass and under branches.

The men then ran to a bakkie.

The investigators and the police chased them to Mountain Rise, where they were arrested.

Former Hawks officer Nico Smith, of Combined Private Investigations, who investigates conductor cable thefts for Eskom and Telkom, said he hoped the men, and others arrested for theft at Estcourt and Elandslaagte, near Ladysmith, would be tried in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.

They had been linked to thefts at various places from Elandslaagte in the north to Umkomaas in the south.

Smith said the men were brave as they had sawn through the high voltage cable at Hilton eight metres above the ground. A hacksaw and other tools were recovered. Touching any exposed live cable would have been fatal.

Although the cable stolen at Hilton was recovered, it could not be re-used and new cables had to be installed. Smith alleged that Xulu was linked to three other cases.

The thefts inconvenienced thousands of Eskom customers.

Smith told the court the syndicate rented rooms near the theft scenes and disappeared quickly afterwards.

They did not invest in houses or vehicles, but spent money on expensive clothes, partying and entertaining women.

The bail application continues on 30 October and 1 November.

Smith said six of 21 people arrested had escaped from prison by breaking through the roof of the Nottingham Road police station cells.

One of them had been re-arrested.