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1 250 years for cable thieves

On Thursday morning (25 February) Malmesbury police responded to a complaint from Prasa about a scheduled train departing Malmesbury station at 05:30 that had run over a person on the outskirts of the town. According to police spokesperson Henry du Rand, the deceased was lying on the railway tracks when the train went over him. He sustained multiple injuries and was declared dead at the scene.

The deceased was found to be in possession of a bag of copper cables. Copper cable theft has become a huge problem in many areas.

The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Khehla Sitole, welcomed the recent accumulative 1 250-year sentence handed down to five cable thieves by the Western Cape High Court on 19 February 2021.

The five thieves, including two who died in the course of the trial, were arrested for theft of Eskom and Telkom infrastructure valued at over R1,8 million.

All seven accused, aged between 30 and 53 years, pleaded not guilty. However, Kwame Harrison (deceased), Thomas Osei, Sipho Bila, Nhlanganiso Habe (deceased), Francisco Mandinde, David September and Anthony Chauke were found guilty on:. two counts of racketeering. 18 counts of fraud. 15 counts of theft. six alternative counts of tampering with, removing or destroying essential infrastructure, and . 15 counts of money laundering.

The first two accused were arrested in Cape Town in November 2016, after four transactions of undercover members selling copper cables to two Ghanaians, Harrison and Osei. Their accomplices were captured soon afterwards.

The trial was moved from the Northern Cape to Cape Town, where all the accused were subsequently found guilty on 18 August 2020. They were sentenced on 12 February 2021.. Osei will spend an effective 650 years in prison; Mozambican nationals, Bila and Mandinde each received 225 year’s imprisonment; Mozambican national September was given 75 years in prison; South African Chauke was sentenced to 75 years’ imprisonment.

Both rail and communication cable theft has caused huge economic loss to the country. The management of the South African Police Service hopes these lengthy sentences will deter would-be cable thieves in future.

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