Two Zimbabwean men jailed 20 years over copper cable theft in South Africa

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PRETORIA, South Africa – The Thabazimbi Regional Court in Limpopo has convicted and sentenced two Zimbabwean nationals – Colin Mlambo, 35, and Andile Alfonso Ndlovu, 19, to 20 years direct imprisonment each for charges of tampering with essential infrastructure.

Additionally, the two were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for theft of copper cables, plus two years imprisonment for contravening the Immigration Act.

“The court heard that on 7 July 2021 during the night, members of Isidingo Security Company received information about theft of Transnet copper cables at Kilkenny train station at Northam.

“They proceeded to the scene and found that 100 metres of Transnet overhead cable was cut and stolen,” Limpopo provincial spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi told IOL.

“They (security guards) started searching for suspects and in the early hours of the morning, they spotted a vehicle next to the crime scene. They immediately approached the vehicle and the driver and one of the passengers fled from the scene.”

The security guards surrounded the suspicious vehicle and managed to apprehend the two accused people who were passengers in car.

“They searched the vehicle and found cut rail lines cables which were confirmed to have been stolen from Kilkenny train station,” said Malabi-Dzhangi.

During trial, the State led evidence of a Transnet senior investigator.

“He told the court that Kilkenny train station was the thieves target and 32 incidents of copper thefts were reported between February and July 2021 and a total of 7,500 metres of overhead copper cables were stolen. He estimated the loss of over R3 million, and due to the magnitude of copper cable theft, the company is unable to repair the damage,” said Malabi-Dzhangi.

The Transnet investigator also testified that due to the rampant theft incidents, trains had to be cancelled and as a result the State-owned enterprise suffered huge losses.

“Both accused (men) pleaded not guilty to the charges. In aggravation of sentence, state Advocate Milton Setlhako submitted to the court that these types of copper cable theft are prevalent in this jurisdiction and there is a huge impact to the economy of this country and Transnet had suffered a huge loss,” said Malabi-Dzhangi.

The court ordered that the sentences run concurrently, which means the two Zimbabwean nationals will each serve an effective term of 20 years.

Meanwhile, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Adocate Ivy Thenga, has welcomed the sentence.

She added that that she hopes the sentence will send a clear message to the public “that offences of this nature will not be tolerated and that the NPA will continue to prosecute these criminals to protect essential infrastructure meant to serve the public”.

In October, the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court sentenced two Zimbabwean nationals, Namer Ndovu, 27, and Collen Singanje, 28, to 10 years of direct imprisonment each after they were convicted for tampering with essential infrastructure.

The two were arrested on December 21, 2020, at Eskia Mpahlane Drive in the Wonderboom area of Tshwane after Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) security guards found them with eight pieces of signal copper cables. IOL