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Cable theft threatens business

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Businesses in Millwright Street, Kimdustria, are calling for Sol Plaatje Municipality to come up with a “bulletproof plan” to save them from the escalating power outages caused by cable theft.

An electrical cable was stolen in Millwright Street, Kimdustria, which left five businesses without electricity. Picture: Soraya Crowie

BUSINESSES in Millwright Street, Kimdustria, are calling for Sol Plaatje Municipality to come up with a “bulletproof plan” to save them from the escalating power outages caused by cable theft.

This follows the latest incident of cable theft in the area, which saw a mini-substation targeted and set alight on the evening of November 13.

The mini-substation was hit on the very same night that the cables were replaced.

Nearby businesses had already had to endure two weeks without electricity due to the substation being vandalised.

According to business owners in Millwright Street, the mini-substation supplies five businesses with electricity.

They pointed out that they had already suffered three cable theft incidents in October, where there businesses could not operate properly without electricity.

They said they have pleaded with the municipality for the electricity box to be moved into one of the yards of the nearby businesses, in order for them to protect it, but the local authority is “not interested”.

The owner of HB Powder Coating and Welding, Herman Groenewald, whose business the mini-substation is situated in front of, explained that the intention was for the box to be moved inside the yard, to concrete it and then to put a cage around it.

Groenewald, who has been running his business for 28 years, said that he has been losing business recently due to the power outages.

He said that the situation has become “exhausting, and highlighted that there were times when they were unable to receive salaries due to loss of income.

He added that their pleas to the municipality have been falling on deaf ears.

He said the municipality was not prepared to take extra measures to protect the electricity box, but the local businesses were prepared to do so. He wanted the municipality to “meat them halfway” to try and resolve the matter.

“We even tried to motivate our request by promising to keep the cage locked and to give the municipality the extra key to the cage, but there is no interest shown.”

Groenewald said that on the night of November 13 they were woken up by calls from the security company, which reported that the mini-substation was on fire and the alarms had been going off since 10pm.

“The fire department was called and came to put out the fire. The police never came, regardless of being called numerous times,” said Groenewald.

“Upon arrival, we found a badly burned glove, a hacksaw and a screwdriver on the scene.”

He pointed out that they have already had to spend their own money to replace a cable that was stolen.

“I don’t know what to do anymore. I mean, if my own local government can’t meet me, a taxpayer, halfway when I come up with a solution, then what? It seems like a concerted effort to make it easier for criminals.

“It was clear that they only wanted the cables. When we checked in the workshop it didn’t seem like there was anything missing, only a smashed window.”

Another of the local business owners raised concerns that the municipal electrical teams perform “shoddy jobs” at times.

She said the steel box was loose, without a proper lock, making it easy for anyone to access it.

Sol Plaatje Municipality has meanwhile issued a statement noting that three mini-substations were targeted and vandalised on that evening and critical components were stolen

Municipal spokesperson Thabo Mothibi said there are suspicions of a crime syndicate being involved, “with operatives highly knowledgeable in the electrical sector”.

Mothibi said the vandalism and theft carried out at one of the mini-substations served to confirm the organised crime factor and the possibility of saboteurs seeking to spark mayhem.

The area was like a ghost town for the entire day after the incident, with more than 10 customers also having to turn back from the nearby vehicle testing station due to the power outage.

The mini-substation was replaced later in the afternoon by Sol Plaatje Municipality’s electrical team.

Cables were stolen, leaving five businesses without electricity in Millwright Street, Kimdustria. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Even though a business tried to secure the cables by placing concrete slabs over them, they were still stolen again. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A glove was found near to where the cables were stolen. Picture: Soraya Crowie

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