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Cable Theft’s Severe Impact on South Africa’s Railways



Cable Theft's Severe Impact on South Africa's Railways

South Africa’s state-owned freight logistics firm has issued an urgent plea to the government, urging robust action against criminals involved in stealing railway cables. Transnet emphasises that thefts have led to disruptive service interruptions and inflicted severe damage on the economy as reported by African Insider.

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Transnet emphasises the need for heightened security measures to maintain the smooth flow of rail traffic and to enhance efforts to secure convictions for suspected thieves. The firm’s head, Portia Derby, expressed that cable theft constitutes a substantial challenge and has had a tangible impact on operations. This impact extends to a reduction in coal and commodity exports.

The ongoing issue of stealing electricity and railway cables for their copper content has long plagued South Africa, and authorities attribute this problem to exacerbating the country’s power crisis and transportation disruptions.

While the government banned scrap metal exports as a countermeasure, Derby disclosed that the ban has not proven effective in deterring thieves. In the year prior, over 1,500km (930 miles) of cable was stolen from the company in a staggering 4,826 incidents, underscoring the frequency and gravity of the problem.


Disturbingly, only a mere four percent of those apprehended for thefts are successfully convicted in court. Derby advocates for a higher conviction rate, highlighting the importance of legal consequences to address the issue more effectively.

Transnet, serving as Africa’s most advanced economy’s logistical backbone, oversees the nation’s rail freight network and all its ports. To circumvent the challenges posed by cable theft, Derby shared that the company is contemplating a transition to diesel-powered locomotives. This strategy aims to mitigate the risk of trains becoming immobilised without electric cables.

Derby’s perspective is grounded in the belief that a dependable railway system necessitates a dual approach: augmenting train security while concurrently ensuring the continuous functionality of the rail network. This underscores the intricate balance between safeguarding against theft and maintaining operational reliability.

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Photo: Facebook. /@Transnet National Ports Authority

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