The DA has meanwhile appealed to the SAPS to help protect Sol Plaatje Municipality infrastructure
A MAN was taken in for questioning by the police on Thursday after copper cables that are almost a kilometre long were dug up along the N12 near Kamfers Dam.
Several suspects had fled the scene on Wednesday afternoon, leaving behind tools, clothing and IDs.
The incident left residents in the area, including the Witdam police station, without power for hours.
Residents in the vicinity of Kamfers Dam said that the same areas are being repeatedly targeted by cable thieves, not long after the Sol Plaatje Municipality has performed repairs and replaced the stolen cable.
The latest cables that were targeted were apparently replaced less than two weeks ago by the municipality.
The residents called for security to be improved.
The suspects were reportedly spotted digging up the trenches at around 5pm on Wednesday and fled the scene when challenged, leaving behind tools, clothing and IDs.
According to one of the local residents, Janse van Rensburg, this recent incident was a brazen act by the thieves, who had started digging the trenches in broad daylight.
Van Rensburg said the thieves had switched off the breaker before they started digging.
“We are having sleepless nights in our own homes,” said Van Rensburg. “They usually steal at night and it is by sheer luck that we catch them.
“They hide in the water trenches or among the reeds when they realise that they have been spotted.
“This time, they switched off the breaker because they knew that the power would go off and alert us, as usual, if they hit the cable with a pickaxe by mistake.
“They also know where the electric joints are.”
The DA in the Northern Cape has meanwhile appealed to the SAPS to “sharpen its patrols in crime hot-spot areas in the absence of action taken by the Sol Plaatje Municipality to secure its infrastructure”.
A DA councillor at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Ockert Fourie, said the party plans to submit a letter to the acting police commissioner, Major-General Henriette de Waal, calling for more frequent patrols of the area.
The DA has also promised to raise the matter in council and to ask questions pertaining to the criminal cases opened in respect of incidents of copper theft.
It indicated that the matter should not be allowed to “slip under the radar”.
“If Sol Plaatje conducted routine patrols, the incident could have been prevented. Sol Plaatje can’t even secure its national key points due to a lack of qualified security officers and vehicles, despite escalating theft and vandalism of municipal infrastructure,” said Fourie.
“After fixing the cables, the municipality didn’t even close the trenches, making it easy for cable thieves to strike again.”
Fourie referred to the municipality’s adjusted budget, which he said “gives little hope of additional security measures being put in place”.
“Recently, the appointment of 28 security personnel was cancelled.”
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said that the police are working round-the-clock to catch the other suspects believed to have been involved in Wednesday’s incident.
Matsie said that the municipality was pleading with the relevant authorities to “harshly” punish those destroying its infrastructure and for “unscrupulous” scrapyards to be shut down.
“We continue working with other stakeholders to deal with the demon of cable theft across our infrastructure.
“From pump stations, including Gogga, to the Homevale wastewater treatment plant, we have experienced massive damages,” said Matsie.