Cable theft cuts drug counselling services


The director of Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre in Eastridge, Ashley Potts, has threatened to terminate his contract with Telkom after he says it refused to fix stolen cables in the area.

Thieves dug up cables last month near the corner of Klipspringer Street and Zebra Crescent.

“The incident happened on May 1. We didn’t know that cables were stolen in the area,” said Mr Potts. “We became aware after our computers and phones were all down. I immediately informed the Telkom branch in Portland requesting them to investigate the stolen cables.”

But he said Telkom refused to do so, saying they’d already replaced stolen cables in the area on more than 60 occasions.

Mr Potts isn’t impressed. He said cable theft was a reality all over and it was unfair for Telkom to suddenly decide to wash their hands of the problem in a certain community.

“ I feel as if we are undermined as the community of Mitchell’s Plain. They didn’t even bother to come to see where the problem is first. They just told me straight that they won’t come.”

The decision, he said, would hurt the centre’s ability to provide a much-needed service, as it now has to rely on expensive cellphone data bundles to stay in touch with clients.

“We are struggling to communicate with our clients because our phones and computers are not functioning. We had to buy a new modem so that we can be able to buy bundles and get access to the internet.

“Our new telecommunication service provider had to divert all calls to the new numbers that we currently have. The clients don’t know our cellphone numbers; they only know our landline number,” said Mr Potts.

He said the centre dealt with vulnerable people who had drug and alcohol addictions and needed to stay in touch so they could be reminded to attend support sessions.

”They need to be reminded all the time about their programmes. If you don’t phone them, they won’t come,” he said.

The centre is a non-profit organisation that provides free services to its clients and depends on subsidies to survive.

“Now we have to spend about R3 200 per month for once-off data bundles,” fumed Mr Potts.

Telkom spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan would not confirm or deny whether Telkom had given up on replacing copper cables in the Eastridge area. However, she said Telkom was moving customers to wireless and fibre technologies to avoid the problems caused by rampant copper cable theft.

“We face a unique set of challenges when it comes to copper cable theft. For example, there are areas in the Western Cape where gang violence sometimes makes it dangerous for us to send technicians into the area to replace stolen cables. In many high theft areas, cable is repeatedly stolen, sometimes within days after replacements or repairs,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Persistent breaks in connectivity hit not only households, but also schools, government buildings and industries countrywide, making copper cable theft a national concern.

“For the 2015 financial year, Telkom has experienced over R200 million rand in losses, R100 million direct cable theft repair cost and an additional R107 million was spent on security services,” she said.