DURBAN - Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal region is actively taking measures to combat the increasing problem of vandalism and battery theft at base stations in the province. Every month, the region experiences 90 to 140 incidents of vandalism and between 120 and 160 incidents of battery theft at sites.
“While this type of criminal activity has been on the rise, we have noticed a slight decline recently thanks to our initiatives to tighten security at our base station sites. The cost of the impact of vandalism and theft goes beyond just the equipment and resources required for restoration. It disrupts network services, causing downtime for customers and affecting communities that rely on connectivity,” says Imran Khan, Managing Executive of Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Region.
Cellular base stations often serve as the only form of connectivity for many communities, especially in remote areas of the region. When these sites are vandalised or batteries are stolen, thousands of residents are left without vital communication. This not only affects individuals and small businesses but also has serious consequences in emergency situations when making a call can be a matter of life and death. The cost of restoring connectivity after such incidents cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of rand per site, which could otherwise be invested in network upgrades and rural expansion.
In an effort to maintain connectivity for customers during load-shedding, Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal region has implemented backup power solutions at base station sites. However, this has led to criminals shifting their focus to stealing generators, load cables, diesel and backup batteries and vandalising generator vaults and battery cabinets.
To address these issues, Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal region has invested in robust security measures, including installing security cameras to monitor sites and deploying trained security personnel to respond quickly to any suspicious activity. High-security battery cabinets and hardened site containers have also been installed, which are making it more difficult for criminals to access valuable equipment. In addition, the region is working closely with law enforcement agencies and security companies to arrest thieves for prosecution with several cases awaiting trial.
“We acknowledge that the fight against vandalism and theft is ongoing, and criminals are constantly finding new ways to operate illegally. Therefore, Vodacom appeals to all stakeholders, including law enforcement and communities, to play their part in curbing these offences. We have seen success in deterring thieves when members of the communities, such as farmers, report criminal activity. Stopping vandalism and theft is in everyone’s interest to prevent network disruption and ensure inclusive access to the benefits of connectivity,” concludes Khan.
Vodacom urges citizens to report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism through their toll-free number: 082 241 9952 or by contacting SAPS on 10111.