Five members of a Johannesburg-based syndicate who stole overhead copper cables worth millions of rand from Telkom, Transnet and Eskom between 2012 and 2015 have been sentenced in the Western Cape High Court.
Malome Matsetela, Amos Ngobeni, Samuel Ngwenya, Linda Malopi and Wilson Khoza were also found guilty and sentenced on charges of money laundering and extortion, says Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
- Matsetela was sentenced to a total of 77 years in prison for the theft of copper cables, extortion and money laundering. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the theft of copper cables between Pofadder and Kenhard, Steinkopf and Port Nolloth, Bedfordview, Malvern East in Gauteng and Stanhope in Malvern. The court sentenced him to 27 years in prison for extortion and 10 years for four counts of money laundering. The court determined that some of the sentences will be served concurrently. He will effectively serve 18 years in prison.
- Ngobeni was sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison, but the court determined that some of his sentences will also be served concurrently. He was sentenced to eight years for extortion, 23 years for the theft of cables between Oudtshoorn and Prins Albert, Pofadder and Kenhardt, Steinkopf and Port Nolloth and in Williston. He was also sentenced to eight years in prison on four counts of money laundering. He will effectively serve 15 years in prison.
- Ngwenya was sentenced to a total of 35 years in prison. He was sentenced to eight years for extortion, 27 years for the theft of copper cables between Pofadder and Kenhardt, Steinkopf and Port Nolloth and in Williston. He will effectively serve eight years in prison because some of his sentences will also be served concurrently.
- Malopi will effectively serve 17 years in prison instead of the 31 years he was given because some of his sentences will be served concurrently. He was sentenced to eight years for extortion, 15 years for the theft of cables between Pofadder and Kenhardt and Steinkopf and Port Nolloth. He was also sentenced to eight years on three counts of money laundering.
- Khoza will also serve eight years instead of the 18-year prison sentence he was given. He was sentenced to eight years for extortion and 10 years for the theft of cables in Kimberley and Brakpan.
“The syndicate’s looting of infrastructure came to an end on 10 November 2012 when a silent alarm went off when Ngobeni and Ngwenya cut the Telkom cables between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert,” says Ntabazalila. “The police arrested them and heard them referring to a third suspect who would upload the stolen Telkom cable. The police spotted a suspicious vehicle and chased the suspect.”
The driver of the car stopped and ran away.
“The directorate for priority crime investigations (the Hawks) in George took over the investigation due to the increase in theft of Telkom cables in the southern Cape at that stage.”
The Hawks discovered that the vehicle was rented from a car rental company, Mundzhedzi Consulting in Diepkloof, Soweto. The company belongs to Takalani Makananisi.
Further investigation revealed that the syndicate used the vehicles to steal the Telkom, Eskom and Transnet cables in the Western Cape and Northern Cape. It was then transported to Malvern, Johannesburg where it was unloaded at Malvern Scrap Metal. Malvern Scrap Metal belongs to Matsetela. Matsetela then took the stolen copper cables to SA Metals, Bedfordview, where he sold them. He then shared the proceeds with the rest of the accused.
Senior state attorney John Ryneveld told the court that between 1 November 2012 and 2 September 2014, Matsetela received more than R15 million from 241 transactions from SA Metals.
Ryneveld told the court that between 4 June 2013 and 13 August 2014 Ngobeni received a total of R119 480.
Nwenya received the R506 114 between November 2012 and April 2014.
Khoza received R446 925 between 4 March 2013 and 29 July 2014.
Adv. Nicolette Bell, Western Cape director of public prosecutions, welcomed the sentences. “I commend the investigation and prosecution teams for the work they have done to ensure that the accused are arrested and successfully prosecuted for the looting of government infrastructure. Copper cable theft has a detrimental impact on service delivery and the economy.”
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