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In the past few months, cable theft has, according to the George Municipality’s Electrotechnical Services Directorate escalated to the extent where it seems like individuals are targeting or sabotaging the infrastructure of the Electrical department and this affects service delivery due to the incurred damages.

Vandalism of cable theft that has occurred in the past seven months cost the Municipality approximately R 1, 4 million for the work done, says Mr Bongani Mandla, the George Municipality Director for Electrotechnical Services.

“In this financial year starting from July 2023, we had 379 registered streetlights and cables that were vandalised and/or stolen up to the end of January 2023. These incidents leave areas in the dark and impact negatively on the security of the neighbourhoods and the provision of quality service delivery to the residents,” Mandla added.

Mandla says, the most affected area is the vicinity of the George central business district and a recent spike of incidents occurred at York, Palgrave, Skool, Cradock, and Meade Streets, basically the whole of George South and the town centre.

He says the vandalism is a deterrent to the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure, and it appears that the ongoing load shedding inadvertently aids the occurrence of vandalism. “Daily maintenance is being done on streetlights, but the vandalised areas must be visited repeatedly. The damages happen at night, and it is evident that load shedding has a contributing factor as some areas which were left on or repaired the previous day, were reported to be damaged soon thereafter.”

The funds that are currently used to repair or replace vandalised and stolen cable can be better utilised and be steered towards George residents who do not yet have adequate lighting. This, therefore, robs citizens of quality and adequate services.

“Even though there is an existing tender for replacement or maintenance of cabling, the procurement process of the stolen or vandalised items is also negatively affected as there is the lead time for some of the items, and with the increase in vandalism and theft, it does negatively impact our stock levels and we try to continuously keep spares. But if it is not halted, it could result in even longer delays for some critical materials.

To curb vandalism, there is a technology we are introducing soon for theft identification linked to response time, this will help to apprehend the thieves. We are also rolling out the pole replacement projects, which are targeted at the high-impact areas, where the drive is to replace the wooden poles with newly designed steel poles. These new poles are designed to deter vandals and thieves by raising the points of access used by them to vandalise or steal cables. It must be noted that given the thousands of poles, the prioritised high-risk areas are the focus while the roll-out to other areas will follow thereafter. Partaking in both the theft identification system and the newly designed streetlight poles rollout, the municipality is making it more difficult for vandals and thieves to continue their activities.

The Municipality continues to report vandalism incidents to the South African Police Service (SAPS), and dockets are opened for investigation.

We appeal to the citizens of George to assist in curbing these indents by reporting incidents to official communication channels of the George Municipality and the police. Vandalism is a crime and ultimately costs ratepayers, money. Vandalism also results in communities being deprived of services.

The public is requested to please report people tampering, painting, breaking, or stealing municipal property with the SAPS and George Municipality Law Enforcement (044 801 6350 or 044 801 6300 after hours) as soon as you see it happening. If you can take pictures of the culprits in the act without endangering yourself, it will help a lot. Thank you in advance for helping us protect our infrastructure.

George Municipality offers a reward of R2500 for information that leads to the successful conviction of vandalism in a court of law. The informant will provide their details to relevant authorities. The informant will not be required to testify as the municipality will protect the identity of the informant. Please report to 0860 044 044 to be eligible for the reward.