Criminals are increasingly targeting mobile networks to steal deep-cycle batteries, which make their way into South African homes.
Vandalism of cellular networks to steal batteries, copper, and other valuables is nothing new, but this trend is accelerating.
Leonie Verster, divisional executive at Bidvest Protea Coin, said people do not realise how big the problem of battery theft is in South Africa.
While stolen cellular network batteries were previously destined for countries like Zimbabwe and Malawi, a local market has developed with the advent of load-shedding.
Speaking to Carte Blanche, Verster said it is more lucrative to sell the stolen batteries in South Africa because there are no cross-border transport costs and less risk.
“They have the demand in South Africa, they can steal and then sell the batteries immediately,” said Verster.
Stolen batteries sold to SA households
The stolen batteries are often sold to unsuspecting people who want to protect themselves against load-shedding or make use of solar power.
Unscrupulous companies purchase the stolen batteries from criminals and then install them as part of a load-shedding solution.
Verster warns that people who have these stolen batteries in their homes are in trouble, irrespective of whether the batteries are new or second-hand.
“You are in possession of stolen commodities and subsequently you are going to be dealt with accordingly,” she said.
How to check if you have stolen batteries
Carte Blanche highlighted some tell-tale signs to identify stolen batteries and protect you from becoming part of the criminal chain.
- Check the brand of the deep cycle battery. Leoch is the battery brand used by major mobile operators – if you see these batteries sold on the open market, they are most likely stolen.
- Leoch lithium batteries sell for between R25,000 and R30,000 per battery. The price for stolen batteries is significantly lower, often less than a third of the real price.
The images below show what the stolen Leoch lithium batteries look like.
Report stolen batteries
Should you suspect a battery has been stolen or you see suspected vandalism of a cellphone tower, it’s crucial that you report it as soon as possible by contacting these companies.
- SA Police – Call 08600 10111
- Bidvest Protea Coin Hotline – Call 086 101 1721
- MTN Fraud Line – Call 083 123 7867 or email [email protected]
- Telkom – Call 0800 124 000 or SMS *120*11223344#
- Vodacom – Call 0800 990 520
- Cell C – Call 084 135