Geoff Jacobs, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In war, the first thing an army does is attack the enemy’s communications.
In modern times, that would be railways, road networks, and radio communications.
That is exactly what is happening in Cape Town.
We are not officially at war, but criminals are targeting the rail network by stealing its copper and steel, the batteries that keep our cellphone towers operating and now the batteries that keep the traffic lights working through power outages.
And the criminals are winning.
Cable theft has taken a major commuting line out of action.
It remains to be seen whether the police can or will be able to stop the rising theft of batteries from cellphone towers and traffic lights.
Of course, one uses the word “police” loosely.
The South African Police Service seems to be hapless on this particular criminal front.
Not so Cape Town’s traffic police who are the first law enforcement agency to make a breakthrough against traffic light battery thieves.
Last week, the traffic department announced that in following up a reported stolen vehicle they found a stolen traffic light battery installed in it.
So it was a bit of luck rather than professional policing that revealed the theft.
So far so good, but without stringent custodial sentences for those found guilty of sabotaging public infrastructure, such is the state of lawlessness that the convenience of pinching a cell tower battery that apparently fits neatly into an average motor car, will prevail.
There will undoubtedly be action to secure such batteries against theft.
As usual, the costs of such measures will be passed on to an already beleaguered ratepayer base.
In a normal society, such measures should be unnecessary, but in our world, sabotage of public infrastructure has become an every-day occurrence simply because criminal elements can and do get away with it.
While the traffic police are to be highly commended for the arrests to date, there needs to be increased vigilance, better co-ordination between Cape Town’s traffic police and SAPS, and more importantly, community participation to end this sabotage.
These criminal elements live in our communities and are known to many – the culture of silence needs to be replaced with a willingness to stand up and isolate these elements hell-bent on destroying the social and economic fabric of our society.