The theft of substantial quantities of copper cable from the Navy’s communications centre at Silvermine has not impacted in any way on maritime operations.
Responding to reports the thefts had left the Navy with “only one ear” Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga SANDF director: corporate communications said this was not so.
“The theft is not adversely affecting the country’s maritime safety and we are communicating effectively with our ships at sea, including the Valour Class frigate SAS Mendi currently in the Mozambique Channel on an Operation Copper deployment,” he said.
Silvermine is currently running with slight degradation on certain directions due to the loss of radio coverage from upper field antennae. Lower field antennae are fully operational and radio communication over most of the directions and distances required for current maritime operations, including maritime aircraft patrols, is good.
“Additionally, the satellite communication links used to communicate with ships at sea are totally unaffected by the cable theft. Naval Communications Centre Durban will cover for communications that cannot be covered by Silvermine’s lower field.
“Where there are gaps in coverage from Silvermine these will be fully covered by Durban,” he said.
As far as preventing further theft from the strategic base Mabanga said: “A director’s inquiry is currently underway to prevent future similar incidents”.
The Department of Public Works, government’s landlord, has also been approached to repair or replace damaged and broken fences at Silvermine.
“We have indicated it is both serious and urgent but neither the Navy nor the SANDF can indicate when repair work will be done,” he said.
The Navy is investigating alternative ways of repairing fences apparently broken by the copper thieves if Public Works does not respond speedily enough to the military request.
In the interim the Navy has removed all valuable equipment from the upper antenna field to discourage further theft.
Mabanga said the location of the Silvermine complex, in the Table Mountain National Park, meant the Navy did not “normally” guard it.
“The public has direct, but difficult, access through the Silvermine section of the park. The antenna field is protected by a fence which has deteriorated to the extent a completely new barrier is required. Replacement is a major undertaking as environmental and security issues have to be considered,” he said adding the lower section of the Silvermine complex was “fully guarded”.