Vodacom base stations in Soweto are being targeted by organised crime syndicates, with over one hundred cases of vandalism reported since the start of 2020. This has resulted in significant site downtime, leaving entire communities in Soweto with no internet connectivity and this has caused millions of rands worth of damage.
Cellular base stations are the only form of connectivity available to many communities, and when criminals target these base stations to steal diesel, power cables, batteries and even radio equipment, they can cut off thousands of people. Vodacom repeatedly sees situations where communities cannot make emergency calls and are put in danger by these criminals and sooner or later, these criminals will cost someone’s life.
Commenting on this, Perumal Moodley, Executive Head for Operations for Vodacom Gauteng region says: “Incidents of base station vandalism and battery theft have significantly increased since the beginning of the year. On a daily basis, we experience multiple incidents of break-ins in our base stations. What we have discovered through our investigations is that this kind of crime is being perpetuated by organised syndicates who are always finding new ways to commit this type of crime.
“We lose millions of rands worth of damage to our base stations annually as a result of theft and vandalism, which ultimately impacts the cost of mobile services. But more importantly than the monetary impact, criminals are cutting off entire communities.”
It is estimated that local cellphone network providers lose hundreds millions of rands worth of damage to its base stations annually as a result of theft and vandalism.
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. It can also cause ecological damage with vandalism resulting in diesel spillage. Vodacom, however, is fighting back. Vodacom has ramped up the fight against this criminal activity, and is working closely with law enforcement agencies and security companies to arrest thieves for prosecution.
Perumal says: “Crucially for us, the number one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community. Therefore, we urge anyone who sees suspicious activity around our base stations to report it to the police. It’s in everyone’s best interest to act before their signal is cut off.”