MTN partners with the police to combat cell tower cable theft in South Africa

February 5, 2024
2 min read
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  • MTN South Africa has partnered with the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board to support community policing forums (CPFs) in the fight against infrastructure theft, battery theft, and vandalism at cell towers.
  • The partnership's pilot phase began in Soweto, establishing a command centre equipped with laptops, printers, and other data collection tools.
  • The partnership will investigate how technology can prevent and reduce criminal activities at cell towers.

CCTV and WiFi will be used to detect criminal activity and alert first responders. Additionally, CPF members will receive panic buttons, handcuffs, and new uniforms.

MTN South Africa stated that they are taking this step due to the high cost of criminal activities as well as to prevent communities from accessing the network during emergencies or for work.

In March 2023, vandalism and battery theft contributed to MTN South Africa spending R1.5 billion ($78.9 million) to ensure its mobile network operates effectively. 

MTN SA's partnership against theft comes one week after Telkom, another South African telco provider, announced that its Security and Investigation Team is working with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to arrest and convict entities involved in cable theft and infrastructure vandalism in South Africa.

Telkom claims to have carried out "hundreds of convictions" over the previous six years. From July 2017 to December 2023, 3,003 people were arrested, with only 523 successfully convicted. Around 311 people are suspects in vandalism crimes, with 1,126 alleged cases awaiting trial. 

Mobile operators have lost hundreds of millions of rands due to theft and vandalism of infrastructure, which is allegedly one of the top crimes. Cable theft in the country has caused R7 billion ($372.24 million) in annual damage.

Vodacom estimates that vandalism and theft cost between R120 million ($6.3 million) and R130 million ($6.8 million) annually. Thus, it has tightened security in KwaZulu-Natal by installing surveillance cameras, deploying trained security personnel, and introducing high-security battery cabinets and reinforced site containers. 

“Monthly, the region witnesses between 90 and 140 vandalism incidents and 120 and 160 battery thefts,” a report disclosed.

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