MTN SA, policing forums unite to protect network assets

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 05 Feb 2024
MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi.
MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi.

To curb the spate of telecoms infrastructure vandalism and battery theft, MTN SA has partnered with the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board.

The partnership, says an MTN SA statement, aims to support community policing forums (CPFs) to accelerate the fight against this type of crime.

MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi explains that the partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board will see technology harnessed to prevent and reduce incidents of vandalism and theft at cell towers.

“Persistent load-shedding in recent months has resulted in a significant increase in theft of network assets and vandalism of our tower infrastructure. These criminal activities come at a high cost to the company and they also prevent communities from accessing the network and staying in touch and connected – to work, the emergency services and to each other. The effect is devastating on lives and livelihoods, and this is why we are ramping up prevention measures in the communities we serve,” says Molapisi.

“There has never been a more opportune time than now for organisations like ours to identify opportunities from this crisis and partner with local communities and Community Policing Forums to leverage their competencies and abilities to combat criminal and infrastructure damage.”

TJ Masilela, executive chairperson of the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board, adds: “Communities must own the technology infrastructure and defend it by using intelligence and the crime prevention measures of the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies. Fighting criminal tendencies and infrastructure damage needs a multi-integrated approach. CPFs, through our force multiplier community patrollers’ intelligence from the community crime intelligence network, have a chance to make difference and win the war against crime.”

Theft and vandalism of infrastructure has resulted in the mobile operators losing hundreds of millions of rands. The National Prosecuting Authority has classified damage to infrastructure as one of the priority crimes because of the prevalence of these crimes.

Last year, mobile operators Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Cell C and Rain indicated the challenges they faced during the year, with vandalism and theft of critical infrastructure at their base stations top among these.

Vodacom revealed it is losing R120 million to R130 million to vandalism and theft each year.

In the pilot phase of the partnership, currently being rolled out in Soweto, a command centre has been set up with laptops, printers, and other equipment to gather data.

In addition, technology such as CCTV and WiFi points will be harnessed to detect criminal activity and alert responders. In addition, CPF members will also receive new uniforms and equipment like panic buttons and handcuffs to ensure they are armed for any eventuality.

“Our aim is, in time, to empower CPFs across SA to protect network sites in their respective communities. Nothing is more important in SA today than the fight against the crime that is impacting our country. Together we can ensure criminals are brought to book, syndicates dismantled and ultimately the people of SA can enjoy the full benefits of a modern connected life,” concludes Molapisi.