Transnet said cable theft had spiked during a strike by its staff this month, further hobbling a freight rail service whose poor performance was already costing exporters billions of rand annually.
Transnet workers went on a 12-day strike over a wage claim from October 6, hitting ports and freight rail services in Africa’s most advanced economy.
Before the strike, Transnet’s freight rail services were operating below capacity due to shortages of locomotives, poor maintenance, a lack of spare parts for trains, copper cable theft and vandalism.
During a media briefing on Tuesday, Transnet executives said cable theft had increased due to low levels of security staff during the strike, particularly on the container corridor – which runs between commercial hub Johannesburg and the port of Durban on the Indian ocean – which lost 12 kilometres of cable during the walkout.
“We are looking at a 22% increase in cable theft just on the container corridor over the course of the strike,” said Rudzani Ligege, Transnet managing executive for operations in the area.
There were also isolated incidents of vandalism of locomotives during the early stages of the strike, Marius Bennett, Transnet’s general manager for security, said.
Despite the nearly two-week strike, Transnet said it still aims to haul 60 million tonnes of coal in its financial year through March 2023.
“We are working tirelessly to continue the improvements that we started to see before the strike started,” said Ali Motala, managing executive for Transnet Freight Rail’s north corridor, which hauls thermal coal from mines to Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
Transnet’s freight rail service had operated at 18% of capacity during the strike, officials said, leaving exporters, especially miners, counting huge losses.
The Minerals Council of South Africa said each day of the strike cost miners R815 million ($44 million) in lost export revenue.