Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is set to visit the site where more than R2m worth of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) property, including cables, was recovered after three people were arrested in a joint operation by the state-owned entity and police.
Mbalula will visit the site on Sunday.
According to the police, the suspects were arrests on Monday after an investigation was launched into the theft of copper cables from railway lines in Gauteng.
This after a tip-off from the community led investigators to an illegal smelting factory in Ratanda, Heidelberg.
When the police arrived at the factory, copper cables belonging to Prasa were identified at the scene.
Spokesperson Captain Thivhulawi Tshilate said a 43-year-old Prasa employee was arrested and two others were caught smelting copper in one of the rooms.
“The police seized home-made smelting pots, gas cylinders, smelted copper cable bricks, bolt cutters, protective gloves, chemicals, and an electric fan,” Tshilate added.
The Department of Transport said in a statement: “Working with the police, Prasa security successfully arrested three suspects at an illegal smelting factory in Heidelberg. One of the suspects is a Prasa employee.”
It is alleged Prasa’s overhead cables are being stolen and cut into pieces to be smelted down into blocks.
These blocks are then sent across the border to neighbouring countries.
“Prasa loses millions … due to either the torching of trains, vandalism of power stations, public disorder, train collisions or floods. These costs peaked at R364m in 2019,” the department said.