The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) Acting Group CEO, Hishaam Emeran, has welcomed a 15 years’ direct imprisonment sentence that was handed to two illegal immigrants for the theft and smelting of the entity’s stolen copper cables and assets worth R2.6 million.
“Though the theft of rail infrastructure is still a reality, the efficiency of the justice system in dealing with this scourge is commendable,” Emeran said on Thursday.
The incident happened in February 2020 when PRASA’s Area Security Commander was alerted of the theft of electrical overhead cables in the Benoni area near Modderbee Correctional Services. The team was then alerted about a smelting house in Ratanda, Heidelberg, where the stolen assets were sold and smelted.
“The PRASA Infrastructure Protection Task Team in the East Region swooped on the house and discovered illegal activities, including the smelting of copper cables belonging to PRASA by three male suspects. Copper cables and electrical equipment worth R2.6 million were found and recovered from the house.
“Unfortunately, the main suspect, who is the owner of the house is still at large, but he is under police radar. We are confident that the police will find the main suspect and ensure that he is brought to book. It must be noted that no case was brought against the PRASA employee that was arrested during this incident as there was no evidence linking him to the crime following the theft of his company cellphone,” PRASA said.
The sentence was handed down in the Heidelberg Magistrate Court this week.
Emeran said this conviction sends a strong message to criminals and must be viewed as a major positive step in the direction of PRASA’s efforts to turn the tide against the theft and vandalism of essential infrastructure.
“We are emboldened and take courage in the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, 2015 (Act No.18 of 2015) that came into effect in 2016. The Act deals with any person that tampers with, damages or destroys essential infrastructure and elevates the seriousness of theft and/or damage of public infrastructure.
“PRASA commends the excellent work done by PRASA’s Protection Services, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and other law enforcement agencies in securing convictions,” he said.