Cape Town is being stripped bare by criminals

 ·2 May 2024

Theft and vandalism of public electricity infrastructure have cost the City of Cape Town R6.26 million in the first quarter of 2024, with the city putting the number of incidents at ‘crisis levels’.

The City recorded 223 incidents of electricity vandalism and illegal connections in the first quarter of 2024, which cost approximately R6.3 million—roughly R70,000 a day.

The metro’s south area was the hardest hit, with 127 (57%) incidents occurring in Wynberg, Muizenberg, and Gugulethu, among other places. The Mitchells Plain districts were especially impacted by 94 incidents.

According to the city, the destruction caused by vandalism and theft is so severe in some areas that entire circuits and grids need to be rebuilt.

“The restoration of power, in many cases, is thus not an uncomplicated and fast task, as it could take a week or more to rebuild an entire grid for a street or area,” it said.

What’s worse, within hours after repairs, infrastructure is vandalised again for the replacement parts.

It also added the issue is compounded by the escalating safety situation, which is a real threat to service delivery.

“The city and its contractors can only attend to service requests when it is safe to do so. Where possible, city teams are being accompanied by city law enforcement or private security when resources are available.

“The city is advising many of its contractors to set in place plans to rapidly leave a particular area if the security risk becomes too great, as teams are very vulnerable when they attempt to fix infrastructure in some of the high-risk communities,” it added.

According to the city, criminals tend to target overhead cables that supply power to customers, streetlights, and kiosks.

These items are easily accessible, making them vulnerable to theft or damage. Repairs to substations are the most costly, even though there have been few incidents recorded for this equipment type.

Restoring these substations involves rebuilding the entire grid of the affected area, a process that typically requires planning and budgeting a year or two in advance.

“In response to these alarming statistics, we aim to make our infrastructure more resilient and reduce the scope for vandalism over time.

“Against the background of high levels of vandalism, theft and load-shedding damage, the city plans to invest more than R4 billion in electricity grid upgrades and maintenance over three years,” it said.

“Infrastructure vandalism, illegal connections and damage to electricity equipment continue to be a challenge across the metro, as it often results in constant electricity outages in both city- and Eskom-supplied impacted areas.

“We cannot allow this criminality to continue. Repairs of the same vandalised infrastructure are not feasible, place pressure on City resources and negatively impact our residents,” it added.

City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Councillor Beverley van Reenen, called on all members to report any and all criminals stealing or vandalising community infrastructure to 021 480 7700.

Read: Basic income grant for South Africa is coming

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter