South Africa

Transnet cable theft disaster

Cable theft is one of Transnet’s biggest challenges, costing South African taxpayers billions and crushing the local economy.

Apart from the direct cost of securing lines and replacing stolen cables, Transnet’s biggest headache is lost revenue. Unless its trains can run, it cannot make money.

Transnet Freight Rail’s revenue declined from R44.6 billion to R34.8 billion over the last three years, partly caused by cable theft.

Transnet CEO Portia Derby said cable theft was one of Transnet’s biggest challenges. She said if cable theft conviction rates increased, Transnet would do much better.

Over recent years, the number of cable theft incidents has significantly increased. In 2022, Transnet recorded three times more incidents than in 2016.

The chart below shows the rapid increase in cable theft incidents over the last four years.

The infrastructure damage is significant. Transnet loses well over 1,000 km of cables each year because of cable theft.

Since 2016, Transnet has lost 4,439 km of cables due to criminals stealing the company’s cables.

The chart below shows the increase in the kilometres of cables stolen from Transnet between 2016 and 2023.

Cable theft costs South Africa billions of rands, and the situation has worsened significantly in recent years.

Apart from the direct cost of replacing cables, Transnet also significantly increased its security expense to prevent cable theft.

In addition, the forgone revenue due to operational halts has built up to massive levels. In the past five years, the combined cost of cable theft has cost taxpayers R15.52 billion.

The chart below shows how much Transnet has lost because of cable theft between 2016 and 2023.


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