The rise in the number of copper cable thefts and vandalism, which are now a global epidemic, are costing companies million of pula in repairs and replacements nationwide.
To highlight the problem, the Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) organized a stakeholders’ seminar to discuss the pandemic.
The major aim of this workshop was to find working solutions to the problem and agree on ways and means of enhancing public awareness.
Giving his remarks at this seminar, which was at Maharaja last Tuesday, the Chief Executive Officer, Gadzhani Thangwane, stated that BTC, together with other stakeholders, such as Botswana Railways, Water Utilities Corporation and others, had recently experienced a significant increase in the theft and vandalism of the cables.
He said the most affected areas included Gaborone and its surroundings, Francistown, Lobatse and other parts of the country, especially Mahalapye and Palapye.
“This has resulted in significant unavailability of services and thereby affecting many business operations and communication between households and families,” said Thangwane.
Thangwane said cable theft and vandalism practices had also led to significant increase in faults and network downtime.
“This has also inevitably resulted in customer dissonance and loss of confidence in BTC and other service providers.”
He pointed out that the loss of customers had translated into a shrinking market share and had impacted negatively on revenue assurance and, consequently, on the profitability and viability of the business.
“The main challenge when these practices occur is the replacement costs of cable which has so far cost the BTC millions of pula,” he said.
“The Corporation, over and above the replacement costs, has lost traffic revenue due to network down time.”
Cable thefts are coming at a time when the telecommunication market is being liberalized and the privatization of the Corporation, presenting challenges in terms of good serviced delivery.
“With the demand for copper increasing globally, there is no end in sight to this problem and indications are that it may become worse,” stressed Thangwane.
Also present at this workshop was Brian Basson of The Reclamation Group Botswana. Speaking on behalf of the Scrap Metal Dealers, Basson said that cable theft is a global disaster, which needed serious attention as it affected communication in the day to day running of business.
As a way of fighting this epidemic in Reclamation Group, Basson said they make sure that they have a photo of each commodity purchased so as to link it to the original seller when the police need evidence.
He said people who steal cables should bear in mind that they are not only affecting the business companies but also taking innocent lives.
Furthermore, the participants successfully came up with recommendations to help reduce the problem.
The BTC realized that it is high time they strengthened their patrol, and to insert the cable alarm monitoring system in their cables. Some of the recommendations, which were brought up, included the formation of working committee to seal the relationship between stakeholders.
The BTC also brought to light that there had not been any law concerning cable theft, therefore, found it necessary to review legislations.
The participants urged the BTC to have a 24-hour Response Unit team to deal with this issue of cable theft. The BTC reassured the participants that it was going on an aggressive campaign to make the public aware of the cable theft, and also to put up informers’ policy.