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Vodacom Group

Vodacom’s operation in partnership with SAPS nets five suspects belonging to one of SA’s largest battery theft syndicates

Thursday, 5 March 2020

The clear message that we want to send to thieves is that you will be caught and you will be prosecuted

JOHANNESBURG – In a move that demonstrates the efficiency of the high-tech security technology Vodacom has deployed to fight battery theft in its base stations, the mobile provider’s National Security team in partnership with South African Police Services (SAPS) led to the arrest of suspects belonging to one of the largest syndicates behind battery theft in South Africa.

Through an intelligence-driven operation initiated by Vodacom National Security, with assistance of the SAPS, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department led to the arrest of five suspects and the recovery of batteries in Soweto. The successful arrest of members belonging to one of the largest syndicates stealing batteries nationally follows an incident at the Middelburg R35 base station sites in Mpumalanga province where Vodacom’s lithium batteries were stolen. Suspects had managed to flee the scene before local police arrived on the scene.

The following day, using advanced intelligence systems Vodacom ascertained that the suspects were on route to Gauteng province and the telco’s National Security engaged law enforcement in Gauteng for assistance in pursuing the suspects. The operation led to a property in Turffontein where they apprehended suspects on the scene. The suspects were linked to various cases of battery theft and vandalism across the country’s nine provinces. Vodacom batteries stolen in Mpumalanga were recovered at the scene in addition to rounds of 9mm ammunition and house breaking implements.

Johan van Graan, Chief Risk Officer for Vodacom Group said: “We are not resting on our laurels. We are fighting back and the clear message that we want to send to thieves out there is that you will be caught and you will be prosecuted. That we were able to use our systems to track the movements of the members of the syndicate from Mpumalanga to Gauteng demonstrates the efficacy of the high-tech systems and technologies we have adopted to stem the tide of battery theft. We are constantly implementing new technologies to make sure that the thieves are caught and prosecuted.”

“Crucially, the suspects apprehended at the scene were linked to various cases of battery theft and vandalism across the country. What is clear is that through this arrest we are making inroads into one of the biggest syndicates operating inside the country. We are using all the means at our disposal to protect our base stations, so we can afford our customers unmatched customer experience and uninterrupted mobile service whether they are in urban or deep rural areas of the country.”

It is estimated that local cellphone network providers lose hundreds millions of rands in damage to base stations annually as a result of theft and vandalism. Vodacom is losing R120 million to vandalism and theft each year. More importantly than the monetary impact, criminals are cutting off entire communities. Each theft incident can result in the network in that area being down for days, and can severely impact businesses as well as anyone relying on the internet to study. Vodacom repeatedly sees situations where people can't make emergency calls and are put in danger by these criminals - sooner or later these criminals will cost someone’s life.

Crucially, the number one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community. We urge anyone who sees suspicious activity around base stations to report it to the police. It's in everyone's best interest to act before their signal is cut off.  We’d like to urge all members of the community to report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism by calling our toll free number: 0822419952 or SAPS on 10111.

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