South African telco Telkom said this week that it has made significant progress in its battle against infrastructure vandalism.

The company said its cooperation with South African Police Services (SAPS) has resulted in hundreds of cable theft convictions, as reported by ITWeb Africa.

South Africa mobile tower
– Getty Images

Telecoms infrastructure vandalism is a problem that has plagued operators in South Africa, with another telco, Vodacom, highlighting the issue last year.

In September, Vodacom noted that base station battery theft and vandalism have grown significantly, stating incidents of vandalism occurring at 15 to 28 sites per month, with between 18 and 30 batteries stolen from the region's base stations monthly.

It's such an issue in the country that the Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure Forum, a collaborative working group of Telkom, Eskom, Prasa, and Transnet, estimates that copper theft costs the country R7 billion ($373 million) per year, with a total economic effect of closer to R187 billion ($9.9bn).

“Our partnerships made it possible to achieve great results, helping to turn the tide against crime,” said Sepadi Nkadimeng, executive for corporate security at Telkom.

“Many arrests have been made, but most importantly, we’ve supported the process of driving cases through the courts to get positive convictions.”

In total, Telkom said 3,003 individuals have been arrested between July 2017 and December 2023.

Of those apprehensions, cases have been opened against 2,549 individuals.

“Our team of investigators attended every court appearance of the accused, testifying and providing evidence as needed,” said the company.

Telkom said it has been able to significantly reduce theft at its base station sites, but didn't reveal how.

Domestic rival Vodacom stated last year that it had increased its security at its base station sites, through the installation of CCTV cameras.

The company also revealed it's deploying hardened security cabinets to safeguard essential infrastructure, such as batteries, with steel-clad containers equipped with alarms to deter unauthorized access.