South Africa

Criminals target pipelines carrying billions of litres of fuel across SA

Criminals target pipelines carrying billions of litres of fuel across SA

Transnet has seen an increase in theft incidents targeting its fuel pipelines and infrastructure that transport billions of litres of fuel across the country annually.

Three suspects were arrested by the police's crime-busting unit Hawks in one of the latest incidents at Suikerbos in Heidelberg, Gauteng.

Ntokozo Cyril Ndlovu, 41, Mzwandile Ezra Mnisi, 38, and Mandla Michael Zwane, 35, were remanded in custody by the Heidelberg magistrate's court on Monday for allegedly tampering with and damaging a fuel pipeline.

Two vehicles and equipment that were used to damage the pipeline were confiscated.

Transnet spokesperson Saret Knoetze said various steps were being taken, including additional patrols and security, to safeguard the pipelines.

“Transnet pipelines are responsible for the transport of liquid fuels: petrol, diesel, jet fuel, crude oil and gas,” according to the company's website.

“The total product throughput is about 17-billion litres per annum, and the gas throughput is 600-million cubic metres per annum.”

The pipeline network, almost 4,000km long, plays a critical role in the country's economy.

“The pipelines supply a strategic service to the inland economy. We have been working with the law enforcement agencies to address this challenge,” said Knoetze.

Vrye Weekblad reported in January that the Hawks were investigating the possibility that an international syndicate could be behind the sharp increase in the theft of petroleum from the pipelines. Since 2019, more than 10 instances of theft of millions of rand worth of petroleum from the pipelines were reported.

“Transnet is also concerned that the increase of these theft activities could have severe consequences for communities living near our pipelines,” said Knoetze.

Hawks spokesperson Capt Ndivhuwo Mulamu said in the latest incident they had responded to information about people tampering with the fuel pipeline in Heidelberg on Friday.

“The team managed to arrest the three suspects while one managed to flee from the scene. His whereabouts is being sought. A VW Golf and a VW Caddy, as well as the equipment which was allegedly used to damage the fuel pipeline, were confiscated.

“The overall loss on the fuel pipeline damage has not been determined,” Mulamu said.

Knoetze appealed to residents living near the pipelines or driving past, especially at night, to report suspicious activities, such as bakkies or fuel tankers in the area.

Incidents can be reported to a toll-free number 0800 203 843.