Vodacom has announced that its national security team, in partnership with the South African Police Services (SAPS), has arrested suspects belonging to one of the largest battery theft syndicates in South Africa.
The network said that through an intelligence-driven operation initiated by Vodacom National Security with the assistance of the SAPS, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department arrested five suspects and recovered stolen batteries in Soweto.
The successful arrest of members belonging to one of the largest syndicates stealing batteries nationally follows an incident at the Middelburg R35 base station sites in Mpumalanga province where Vodacom’s lithium batteries were stolen.
Suspects had managed to flee the scene before local police arrived.
“We are not resting on our laurels,” Vodacom chief risk officer Johan van Graan. “We are fighting back and the clear message that we want to send to thieves out there is that you will be caught and you will be prosecuted.”
“That we were able to use our systems to track the movements of the members of the syndicate from Mpumalanga to Gauteng demonstrates the efficacy of the high-tech systems and technologies we have adopted to stem the tide of battery theft.”
“We are constantly implementing new technologies to make sure that the thieves are caught and prosecuted,” Graan said.
Taking on syndicates
Vodacom said that this arrest is a crucial step in making progress against these large battery theft syndicates across the country, adding that it would protect its base stations by any means at its disposal.
“Crucially, the suspects apprehended at the scene were linked to various cases of battery theft and vandalism across the country. What is clear is that through this arrest we are making inroads into one of the biggest syndicates operating inside the country,” Graan said.
“We are using all the means at our disposal to protect our base stations, so we can afford our customers unmatched customer experience and uninterrupted mobile service whether they are in urban or deep rural areas of the country.”
Battery theft is rampant in South Africa, with base stations belonging to all operators being vandalised and robbed on a daily basis.
This results in network providers losing hundreds of millions of rand on an annual basis to theft and vandalism, with Vodacom stating that it is losing R120 million to vandalism and theft each year.
Battery theft does not only hurt the mobile network’s investment into infrastructure – it also cuts off entire communities from their mobile connection.
“Each theft incident can result in the network in that area being down for days, and can severely impact businesses as well as anyone relying on the internet to study,” Vodacom said.
“Vodacom repeatedly sees situations where people can’t make emergency calls and are put in danger by these criminals – sooner or later these criminals will cost someone’s life.”