The theft of batteries from cell towers is something most South Africans know about, but the extent of it has been rather nebulous until today where MTN released some figures about the problem, together with a call for the affected communities to report such incidents.

The service provider reported “125 incidents of battery theft last week [up] from 74 the week before” in a press release we received this morning. A total of 733 batteries have been stolen across the country since April of this year.

If you’re indifferent to the fact that a multi-billion rand company is having its assets stolen, you should maybe reconsider. These thefts apparently cause network outages, and the high cost of replacing the batteries may eventually be passed onto us, the consumers.

With mobile services, especially data, already so expensive in South Africa, this is a worrying thought.

MTN’s release explains that each theft requires between four and 16 batteries to be replaced at each tower. R10 million would be required to make these replacements at 100 towers, and “several more millions” needed for repair costs outside of the batteries.

While MTN has explained that it has increased security at the tower sites, the problem is becoming “increasingly brazen and sophisticated” with guards “even being abducted, assaulted and shot at”.

Because of this the company is asking that anonymous tips are left if anyone sees anything relating to these thefts, and that “MTN will provide monetary reward mechanisms for information which helps bring the criminals to book”. The release does not state exactly how this mechanism will work, however.

MTN is calling on citizens to report these thefts at the following points of contact, as well as the police.

  • Bidvest Protea Coin Hotline at 086-101-1721
  • MTNza Fraud Line at 083-123-7867