Soweto: Vodacom’s base stations attacked by organised cellphone battery syndicates

Vodacom base stations in Soweto are increasingly being targeted for theft and vandalism by organised crime syndicates, with over one hundred cases of vandalism since the start of 2020.


In most cases, the theft has resulted in significant site downtime, leaving entire communities in Soweto with no connectivity and has caused millions of rands worth of damage.

Cellular base stations are the only form of connectivity available to many communities, and when criminals target these base stations to steal diesel, power cables, batteries and even radio equipment, they can cut off thousands of people. Vodacom repeatedly sees situations where communities cannot make emergency calls and are put in danger by these criminals and sooner or later, these criminals will cost someone’s life.

Incidents of base station vandalism and battery theft have significantly gotten worse since the beginning of the year. On a daily basis, we experience multiple incidents of break-ins in our base stations. What we are finding through our investigations that this crime is being perpetuated by organised syndicates who are always finding new ways to commit this type of crime. We lose millions of rands worth of damage to our base stations annually as a result of theft and vandalism, which ultimately impacts the cost of mobile services. But more importantly than the monetary impact, criminals are cutting off entire communities.

Perumal Moodley, Executive Head for Operations for Vodacom Gauteng

It is estimated that local cellphone network providers lose hundreds millions of rands worth of damage to its base stations annually as a result of theft and vandalism. 

Each theft incident can result in the network in that area being down for days, and can severely impact businesses as well as anyone relying on the internet to study. It can also cause ecological damage with vandalism resulting in diesel spillage. Vodacom, however, is fighting back.  Vodacom has ramped up the fight against this criminal activity, and is working closely with law enforcement agencies and security companies to arrest thieves for prosecution. 

Crucially for us, the number one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community. Therefore, we urge anyone who sees suspicious activity around our base stations to report it to the police. It’s in everyone’s best interest to act before their signal is cut off.

Perumal Moodley, Executive Head for Operations for Vodacom Gauteng

Vodacom would like to appeal to ordinary members of the community to report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism by calling our toll free number: 082 241 9952 or SAPS on 10111. Last month a man who stole equipment from mobile phone base stations in the Western Cape was handed a 500-year prison sentence by a regional court in Cape Town. 

“Our resolve to catch thieves has never been stronger and has been emboldened by the precedent setting case at the Cape Town Regional Court where a man received a hefty sentence, showing that the consequences of battery theft and site vandalism are of a very serious nature. The clear message that we want to send to criminals is that if you target our base stations, you will be caught and you will be prosecuted,” concludes Perumal.

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