Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub announced last week that the company will spend R1 billion in the current financial year ensuring the network in South Africa is able to cope with widespread electricity blackouts.
The company announced on Tuesday that much of this investment will be used to intensify security around the telco’s base station sites, install additional batteries and generators to ensure connectivity during load shedding.
Vodacom said there has been a significant year-on-year increase in the number of battery thefts in its base stations, with the average increase at around 35%. For instance, on average 600 incidents per month are recorded where sites have been impacted by theft or damage.
“We are losing between R120-R130 million to vandalism and theft each year. Nonetheless, we are not sitting on our laurels and are fighting back by coming up with innovative measures to stem the tide of battery theft,” Johan Van Graan, Chief Risk Officer for Vodacom Group said.
“Our security teams on the ground have observed that quite often syndicates target base stations in far-flung and secluded areas because they know it will take police a long time to react. Hence, our sites in remote areas are repeatedly hit. We are responding to this by testing a new model to secure these sites by forging partnerships with members of the community.”
As part of the new model, Van Graan said the company will recruit locals to serve as monitoring personnel to be our eyes and ears on the ground and provide us with critical information police can use to effect arrests.
“As part of this, we will provide locals with necessary training and accreditations, and link them to policing community forum and local SAPS to provide support when arrests must happen. This way you are helping to deal with the battery theft and base station vandalism problem while empowering local people with employment opportunities at a time when the local economy is struggling to create jobs.”
In all the provinces where this model is currently being tested, it has yielded positive results. For example, because Vodacom has enlisted services of local people to secure its sites, in sites that used to be hit every month, break-ins have now been reduced substantially. This demonstrates that the number one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community and vigilant community members who report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism to police.
Vodacom said it will continue to ramp up the fight against this criminal activity and is working closely with law enforcement agencies and security companies to arrest thieves for prosecution.
The cellphone provider appeals to anyone who sees suspicious activity around its base stations to report it to the police. It is in everyone’s best interest to act before their signal is cut off.
Therefore, we would like to appeal to ordinary members of the community to report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism by calling our toll free number: 0822419952 or SAPS on 10111.