Cable thefts reach worrying levels

Increased theft of electricity and telephone cables is a threat to economic development even as it reaches new depths of impunity with law enforcers watching helplessly.

Last week, a major electricity transmission line linking Nairobi with Mombasa was brought down by vandals at the coast. A report by the Standard newspaper says the thieves brought down electricity pylons and stole the wire for sale as scrap metal. The Kenya Power and Lighting Company puts losses from this single incident at Kshs28 million (US$418,000).

Meanwhile, Telkom Kenya continues to lose millions of shillings from thefts of its underground telephone cables. The thieves are interested in copper, which is currently fetching high prices in the international market. Due to rampant vandalism, Telkom Kenya is placing more emphasis on its mobile phone business through the Telkom Wireless service. Telkom Wireless uses CDMA technology, unlike other mobile phone companies such as Safaricom and Celtel, which utilize the GSM standard.

In order to combat the increased cases of cable vandalism, both the Kenya Power and Lighting Company and Telkom have set up telephone hotlines for the public to provide information on the perpetrators. Kenya Power has a “Mulika Mwizi” (Spotlight on thieves) media campaign aimed at increasing public vigilance on power transmission facilities.

Kenya’s police have achieved limited success in stopping cable vandalism. Most of the people caught are small fish, usually poor youth attracted by the lure of quick cash. The masterminds of the vice are believed to be politically well connected and wealthy individuals. Last year, a parliamentary contestant on the ODM party was found with rolls of vandalized wire at his Embakasi house and at a yard in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. The case against Mr Irshad Sumra has however gone quiet even as he remains politically active.

In June, the Kenyan government banned the export of scrap metal to discourage cable vandalism. One month down the line, it would appear that the wire thieves may have found a new channel for their goods.

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3 Responses

  1. what is happening to telkom kenya is amear campaign ofhatred and sabotage by especially the two competitors who are also rolling out their services via the ofc.Also the scrap metal dealers have contributed much to these problems.Negative attitutes and behaviours of us kenyans are wanting.We destroy alot without thinking of the economic impact to the country,people in the system,and the safety of others who depent on the telecommunication system.Laxity and indirect involvement of security personnels.may God help us kenyans.

  2. Vandalism of Telkom networks began with liberalization of telecommunication sector in early 90’s. Since then, Telkom has suffered some very unfair business practices meted against it by rivals.They have used all crude methods to frustrate Telkom efforts at quality service provision ,in order to convince customers that Telkom is inefficient. The systematic destruction of Telkom Cable Access Networks both under ground and overhead, including equipments allover the country is no ordinary mans work. It is an open secret that the new entrants into the Telecommunication market want to push out Telkom from the market to pave way for their entry. It is also clear for all to see that where Telkom Kenya services were being vandalized and getting completely destroyed; private companies owned by some former powerful individuals would go over drive in the media to advertise solutions to the affected Telkom customers an act which leaves very little to the imagination.
    The advent of GSM Pay Phone services closely followed with private companies and individuals hawking mobile pay phone services at the very spots where Telkom booths lay in a vandalized and pathetic state. This menace escalated with booth after booth being targeted country wide until the Pay Phone Service Section was closed, once again robbing Telkom of one of its most reliable Revenue streams.
    Next was the licensing last year of the SNO by the government which saw the coming on board of other fixed cable line operators. This time the destruction got to a higher level with Telkom PCM / Junction and Aerial Cable Networks being completely destroyed in the rural areas. This resulted in the closure of several exchanges and switches countrywide.
    This wanton and shameless destruction of a national asset continued unabated and without intervention from any quarter including the company itself. Not even CCK which is the national watchdog was able to raise a finger even when evidence pointed at our rivals. This only served to heighten suspicion on the kind of people involved in bringing down telkom.They are not small timers.
    This year they have targeted Metropolitan cable networks ,including the Optic Fiber cable networks in Nairobi, Mombasa and other major towns .
    most curious is the concerted efforts by private firms and individuals to market wireless solutions to the suffering customers. More disturbing is the fact that such destructions take place even before the very eyes of security agents.
    The level of vandalism currently being witnessed in Nairobi region and Mombasa could also be a tactic used to aarmtwist telkom to the contract table by contract seekers.
    Now Privatization is not always synonimous with transparency and fair play. This barbaric act cannot be classified as competition. Vandalism is infact an act of economic sabotage against the state and citizens and the government should be involved in bringing it to an end.

  3. I am concerned of why KPLC always complain of losses as a result of vandalism which are a little bit difficult to combat with unsatisfied customers.the most controllable loss they should think about is revenue lost as a result of not attending to areas with power problems. as i write ths,at my place we’ve had no power for the last 72hour(from 12th may) and the KPLC team does not seem to bother. Would u expect me to participate in the mulika mwizi campaign if i came along a person vandalising the cables in my area?NEVER EVER,i’d let him take them and may be have a better use 4 them.KPLC should think about this among other things.0721440921,Kiarie.

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