This week, there are three further reports of damaging copper cable thefts from Namibia Telecom, Uganda Telecom and Telkom Kenya.

Telecom Namibia says it has suffered losses amounting to N$760 000 this year through acts of vandalism and copper wire theft. Telecom's senior manager for communications, Oiva Angula, said copper wire theft was on the increase, resulting in more telephone system failures in some parts of the country.

"In the past 11 months, over 26 copper theft incidents were recorded, and due to this, hundreds of subscribers were left without communication for days," he said. Most of the thefts occurred in the surroundings of Rundu, Dordabis, Swakopmund, Usakos, Otjiwarongo, Okahandja, Okatope and Windhoek's Hosea Kutako International Airport. Telecom Namibia has now joined forces with the Namibian Police to help prevent theft, identify stolen copper wire and arrest criminals, including their accomplices.

"The public too could play an important role in assisting in both the protection of these public assets and apprehension of such criminals to prevent the immeasurable inconvenience brought about when the telecommunication lines are interfered with," Angula said.

He called on members of the public to call the nearest Police station or Telecom Namibia whenever they notice something wrong. "Telecom Namibia pays handsome rewards to any member of the public for information that leads to a successful conviction or the recovery of stolen assets.

In the meantime in Uganda, power and telephone cables worth sh280m were recovered at Mpoma sub-county in Mukono in an operation aimed at curbing power and telephone cable vandalism. Umeme, Uganda Telecom (utl) and the Police conducted the operation. Four tonnes of dismantled cables were found in tightly-guarded and fenced premises.

Umeme's investigating officer Fred Masinde said the arrested suspects would help reveal where the cables are sold. "Electric and telephone cable thefts are on rampage since the year began," he said.

In Kenya, there were reports of cables being cut at the northern end of Waikayi Way, leading to service outages. Apparently police managed to detain a gang of copper thieves recently but did not have sufficient evidence to arrest the “Mr Big” who is behind a spate of similar copper cable thefts. A recent case showed that once stolen the copper is shipped by container to China.

The East African Standard