Massive copper cable bust in Soweto

A massive haul of stolen copper cables was recently uncovered during a raid of the Devland scrapyard near Soweto.

The operation — a combined effort between the Saps, JMPD, and Eskom — saw heaps of copper cabling confiscated as part of a broader sweep of the Kliptown, Devland, Pimville, and Eldorado Park areas.

Police minister Bheki Cele also said that officers discovered over 1,000 Mandrax tablets and other illegal items at the scene.

The cables were stolen from Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), Prasa, Eskom, and City Power.

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said that cable theft cost the municipality millions in revenue and that scrapyards were the proverbial “snake’s head” when it came to the crime.

“While we want to work with them to help us in dealing with this problem, we have realised that some of them are part of the problem,” said Mangena.

“We will intensify the raids on scrapyards in the coming days so that we cut the head that keeps the demand for the copper cables high,” he added.

Vehicle Trackers posted videos showing police officers sorting through the cables, which were placed into seven large bags.

TFR has called for stricter regulation of the scrap metal industry to clamp down on the trade of stolen copper.

It lost more than 1,000km in copper cables from its railways in the 2022 financial year.

While numerous suspects have been arrested for many of these incidents, Transnet’s lack of proper screening equipment at harbours means that criminals often use mislabeled containers to smuggle stolen copper out of the country.

The proliferation of copper cable theft was recently highlighted in an interview on SAfm, with one expert warning the syndicates were so sophisticated that they trained thieves at schools and spied on court cases to learn how to avoid getting caught in the future.

Eskom and City Power have also observed a surge in the theft of their power cables, particularly in Soweto.

In one incident, a group of thieves pulled 180m of copper cable worth R60,000 out of the ground using a bakkie — in broad daylight.

It is unclear whether those suspects were linked to the bust at Devland.

Eldorado Park residents recently intervened to stop 11 armed men from stealing copper cables in their area, which led to a shootout.

The police subsequently arrested the suspects.

Now read: Copper cable theft nightmare in South Africa

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Massive copper cable bust in Soweto