Two thieves arrested, one shot in leg
One thief was shot in the leg and another arrested after being caught red-handed while stripping wires at a Telkom Cellphone Tower in Kwadwesi on Wednesday night.
The incident happened at about 10:30pm. One of the thieves was shot in the leg after allegedly trying to stab a police official with a large knife.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said that the suspects, both 25 years, were caught after a tip-off to police.
“Members arrived at the tower and spotted the two men stripping the wires and possibly trying to steal the tower batteries. Police cordoned the area and the suspects attempted to hide. When one of the police officials turned the corner, the suspect jumped out from behind a container and lunged at him with a large knife. The suspect was then shot in the upper leg after failing to adhere to requests to surrender,” he said.
“The other suspect surrender and was armed with a screw driver.”
The tower is surrounded by fencing and has several large transformers and a building on the site.
“They cut the perimeter gate lock to get into the premises and then broke into the actual building. Once inside the building it appears that they started stripping the wires. They were in the process of putting the wires in a bag when the police arrived. At this stage, we are not sure if they were after cellphone tower batteriess or only the cables,” he said. Beetge said that cellphone tower battery theft was a major problem last year.
“Last year there were several such cases but then a string of arrests were made. Some of these suspects are still in custody,” he said.
The men are arrested for business burglary and attempted murder of a police official.
Additional charges under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act will be added at a later stage.
The new Amendment Act which came into effect in June 2016. The act allows for courts to hand down sentences of up to 30 years in prison for damaging essential service infrastructure.
Cell phone networks forms part of modern day infrastructure.
Motherwell Cluster Commander, Major General Dawie Rabie said that attacks on police officials would not be tolerated.
“We are pressing for the maximum penalty for anyone who attacks a police official,” he said.
In June, ten Vodacom cellphone tower batteries were recovered after a shoot-out with Port Elizabeth police.
The men targeted the tower in Nkabalaza Street, Kwadwesi, and attempted to speed away in a white VW Golf. The brief chase led to a car chase and one of the four suspects arrested. In August, another three suspects were arrested when Kinkelbos police stopped a white Toyota Hilux bakkie, missing the back number plate, on the N2 near Colchester.
The men tried to run away after being pulled over.Police found eight cellphone tower back-up batteries and equipment used to break into the towers, such as an angle grinder and crowbar. A month later several cellphone tower solar panels and 13 tower batteries believed to have been stolen in the Bay area were found on a truck which was pulled off just outside Port Elizabeth.
The truck was en-route to Zimbabwe where the items are believed to be in high demand.Last year, Gauteng community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane said that syndicates were stealing batteries from cellphone towers and selling them to neighbouring countries.
The one suspect will be taken to Motherwell Magistrates Court when he is discharged from hospital while the other suspect will appear in court on Friday.