The Hawks’ Port Shepstone Serious Organised Crime Investigation and Port Shepstone K9 announced that they arrested three suspects on the N2 on Tuesday when they found cellphone network batteries that were reported stolen.
“Information was received of a van travelling on the N2 to Port Shepstone loaded with a number of cell phone tower batteries,” the SAPS said.
“The Hawks together with the Port Shepstone K9 and LCRC immediately responded to the information and the bakkie in question was located around the Hibberdene area, where the members noticed five suspects offloading batteries at on outbuilding of a scrapyard.”
As the police approached the suspects, two fled the scene and three suspects aged between 26 and 35 were arrested for possession of stolen goods.
48 cell phone tower batteries were recovered at the scene – 24 Vodacom batteries and 24 colloid batteries weighing around 90kg each.
The value of these batteries was around R480,000, and the thieves were also driving a stolen bakkie estimated at R280,000.
“The suspects are scheduled to appear in Hibberdene, Turton District Court on Thursday and are expected to face charges relating to possession of stolen goods,” the SAPS said.
Battery thieves crippling networks
Vandalism and battery theft are rife in South Africa, particularly during load-shedding, when they can be offloaded quickly to buyers at a good price.
MTN previously said that due to the serious problem of cell tower vandalism, it has permanently shut down 53 of its base stations across the country.
The operator said the damage caused by thieves and vandals to its equipment far exceeds the cost of repairing and replacing batteries and other hardware.
Various service interruptions can be caused by these criminal activities apart from diminished coverage, such as outages caused by lost battery replacement, damaged site repair, and tower maintenance.
“Although great strides have been made in the prevention and recovery of stolen batteries, it is still a concern,” said MTN Network Operations general manager Ernest Paul.
“Battery theft is a crime that compromises the safety and welfare of every South African, but it is not a crime that we can fight alone,” he added.
“We therefore appeal to all South Africans to ‘help us help you’ by reporting any theft, vandalism or suspicious activity that you see, hear of or come across.”
Below are photos of the batteries discovered by the police upon arresting the suspects.