Lidgetton residents relieved as Hawks re-arrest suspected copper cable thief

Scores of Lidgetton people celebrated outside the Howick Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday after an alleged copper cable thief was released from police custody, only to immediately be re-arrested by the Hawks.

At least 40 members of the Lidgetton community gathered and chanted, holding signs, to protest bail for the alleged copper cable thief.

Lidgetton ward councillor Desmond Nkuna said outside court that three men were caught stealing copper cables in the area on Monday. One was caught by the community and handed over to the police while the other two men escaped.

Nkuna said the community had been experiencing cable theft for the past two years but had noticed that the thefts began to intensify in March this year.

He said it became such a regular occurrence that business owners and residents were experiencing power cuts almost every weekend.

“Business has suffered severely in the area. Cable theft is a very serious crime and police need to deal with this,” said Nkuna.

“Businesses and the community have all suffered enough. Some of the businesses in the area say they are going to close down because they cannot afford being without electricity.”

Nkuna said when cable theft occurred residents were usually without electricity for three or four days. He added that illegal connections were also a major issue in the area and that together with cable theft, residents had lost jobs and in some cases their livestock.

“In March, we almost lost a 13-year-old boy. He had gone outside to play that morning when he saw a low hanging live cable and touched it with a wet stick.

“The boy was burned all over his body and an innocent life was almost lost,” he said.

Lidgetton residents and owners of a small aquaponic farm, Eddie and Lyn Lion-Cachet, said on Tuesday that their power went out almost every night.

Aquaponics is a type of indoor farming, raising both fish and vegetables.

“We cannot do anything and now we are looking into solar power because of the electricity issues,” said Lyn.

“People are packing up their guest houses and bed and breakfasts. The local children are really struggling to do their homework in the dark and they get home and are unable to have a decent meal,” added Eddie. “Principals of schools in the area have told me they have seen a difference in their pupils’ performance.”

A Lidgetton business owner, who asked not to be named, said he had lost thousands of rands as he was constantly having to throw out rotten food and other products.

He added that electrical surges had also destroyed some of the equipment used in his shop.

Nkuna and the residents waited outside the court for news on whether the alleged thief would receive bail or not, however, the court did not enroll the case as it is believed they needed a statement from the person who apprehended the suspect.

Nkuna said he and the community were outraged to hear the case would not be heard and that the man would be released.

However, he said as soon as Howick police released the man, the Hawks re-arrested him. This could not be confirmed officially at the time of going to print.

Nkuna said residents were “happy and relieved” that the man had been re-arrested and are now awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the Hawks.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za