Vodacom Group said it losses between ZAR 120-ZAR 130 Mn to vandalism annually with 1,500 – 2,00 batteries stolen every month.
Andries Delport, Vodacom’s chief technology officer (CTO) said batteries, solar, panels are stolen adding that generators are also targeted during the times when Eskom implements load-shedding.
The telco said the theft and vandalism normally lead to blackouts in the areas affected.
MTN South Africa was also forced to permanently shut down 53 base stations which they said were critically tampered with by vandals. 89 cell towers across the country are currently awaiting replacement batteries and maintenance fixes.
Ernest Paul, MTN General Manager for network operations said, some cases are “so severe that hundreds of towers around the country are at risk of being permanently shut down, putting a strain on the network and potentially diminishing the quality of the service provided to customers”.
He added that “The damage to towers and infrastructure is far exceeding the cost of repairing and replacing batteries and equipment.”
MTN revealed it recovered batteries worth almost ZAR 1 Mn last week in Pretoria, in a mission that involved the police, security personal and South African citizens.
Paul further cautioned that if the battery theft continues with the current pace, the effects may soon have a ripple impact on the economy.
In a bid to provide a solution for the challenge of battery theft, MTN will be implementing full detection and monitoring on all base transceiver station sites.
The challenge of vandalism seems to be deeply-rooted as last year, vandalism cost City of Johannesburg ZAR 300 Mn. 45 per cent of the city’s power outages were due to stolen infrastructure more so cables.
Mayor Herman Mashaba said stolen infrastructure has been a major hindrance frustrating the City’s attempts to execute service delivery, particularly in constructing streetlights in some areas of Johannesburg.
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