Cable theft remains a major problem for Transnet.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has allowed Transnet security officers to be given peace officer status, giving them more powers, including the ability to make arrests when critical infrastructure is under siege by criminals.

“How will Transnet security officers be able to exercise powers under section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act allowing Transnet security officers to make arrests and assist the National Prosecuting Authority in prosecutions. They will also be able to: search premises, objects and people, complete case lists to ensure suspects are charged and assist with major investigations,” Transnet said in a statement.

Transnet Freight Rail has seen an exponential increase in cable theft incidents over the past five years, resulting in increased tonnage and lost revenue, as well as repair costs. More than 1 500km of cable was stolen – a 1 096% increase in the length of cable stolen over the past five years – with a net financial impact of R4.1bn, Transnet said.

While incidents at Transnet Pipelines (TPL) fell last financial year due to safety interventions, there has been a surge in the past few months, mainly due to rising fuel prices. Over the past three years, TPL’s volume losses have increased by approximately 30 million litres, with a net financial impact of approximately 1.1 billion rand over the period.

The ability of peace officers to complete registries is key. Transnet has been working with the police over the years to ensure that suspects are charged under the amended Criminal Procedure Act, as they often are not. The law imposes harsh penalties on those who damage essential infrastructure and makes it more difficult for offenders to be released on bail. Such a crime carries a minimum of 15 years in prison for first-time offenders and up to 30 years for repeat offenders.

Transnet said security personnel will undergo thorough training in line with Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) requirements. On successful completion of training, candidates will receive a certificate of competency from the National Police Commissioner and receive SAPS appointment letters and Transnet ID cards.

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