- A Heidelberg magistrate has sentenced two convicted copper thieves to 15 years imprisonment.
- The men were found to have stolen and smelted Prasa copper cables and assets worth R2.6 million.
- The owner of the house used to smelt the copper is still at large.
The Passenger Rail Agency of South African (Prasa) hopes that a stiff sentence two copper thieves received will send a strong message to criminals targeting essential infrastructure.
In a statement on Thursday, Prasa hailed the judgment handed down by a Heidelberg magistrate in Gauteng earlier this week, which saw the sentencing of two illegal immigrants to 15 years direct imprisonment for theft and smelting of stolen Prasa copper cables and assets worth R2.6 million.
The owner of the smelting house remains under police radar as he is still at large. Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said that in February 2020, the group's area security commander was alerted of the theft of overhead electrical cables in the Benoni area.
She said the team was also alerted about a smelting house in Ratanda, Heidelberg, where the stolen assets were sold and smelted.
"The Prasa infrastructure protection task team in the East Region swooped on the house and discovered illegal activities, including the smelting of copper cables belonging to Prasa by three male suspects," Makanda said.
Makanda said no case was brought against the Prasa employee who was arrested during the incident as there was no evidence linking him to the crime following the theft of his company cellphone.
A few days after the discovery, Makanda said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula visited the house, describing it as a "house of crime". She said the minister called for copper cable criminals to be charged with economic sabotage.
Prasa commended the excellent work done by its protection services, the National Prosecuting Authority and other law enforcement agencies in securing convictions.
"Though the theft of rail infrastructure is still a reality, the efficiency of the justice system in dealing with this scourge is also commendable, and we are confident that the police will find the main suspect and ensure that he is brought to book," Prasa acting group head of technical Hishaam Emeran said.