South African electrical grid just the latest to be targeted
Whether its cyberattacks, war-driven espionage, or independent vandals, electrical grids are a target these days. We've reported on a series of damages to grid infrastructure in states such as Texas and South Carolina in the past year alone within the U.S. In Ukraine, the war makes the electrical grid a priority target. The latest comes from South Africa, where vandalism and damages were reported last week.
In a pursuit that authorities say is ongoing, the Mangaung Metro Municipality’s power utility, Centlec, "has been successful in apprehending two of the four suspects who were caught with an electricity transformer," according to the municipality's website.
While the other two suspects are still on the run, the two who were apprehended were handed over to the South African Police Services (SAPS) in Bloemfontein.
Centlec’s spokesperson, Lele Mamatu, says the Chief of Security Services at the entity received a tip-off that four males were seen near the dumping site pushing an electricity transformer in a trolley. A case of vandalism of valuable infrastructure and theft has been opened at the Kagisanong Police Station against the suspects. “Electricity infrastructure is very central to our regional economic growth and development and therefore we request every single member of the community to play their role in fighting the devastation, sabotage and destruction of critical infrastructure,” adds Mamatu.
Vandalism has previously left the City of Roses without power for hours. On 7 October 2022, Centlec informed the community of Bloemfontein that there will be an emergency power outage at one of their major stations, and it will go beyond the normal two hours of load-shedding.
At the time, the power utility explained that the outage will be from 11:00 to 16:00. The reason given was that there has been vandalism at a critical distribution centre on the 132kV network. “This distribution centre is at risk and emergency work needs to be performed to reduce the risk of further damage to electrical apparatus and infrastructure,” the media statement reads.
In a message to residents, the DA Councillor in ward 44, Selmé Pretorius, said urgent repairs are required to prevent further damage to the grid. “We are experiencing a rise in vandalism and damage to all our infrastructure,” she added. Pretorius also explains that on 14 August 2022, she and Rossouw Botes laid criminal charges in terms of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act at the Park Road Police Station. According to her, there are areas that have been without water for six months due to damage to water pumps and municipal boreholes. The power utility is requesting members of the public to report criminal activities such as illegal connections, theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure to the authorities or to the Centlec's fraud hotline at 051-409-2218, WhatsApp 064-616-5574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org