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Arrests over telco power thefts

By Edith Mwale, Lusaka, Zambia

Police in Zambia have arrested three people in connection with theft of generator starter batteries, hybrid batteries and fuel from Airtel’s telecom towers.

The theft which occurred about two weeks ago, led to the disruption and degradation of the company’s network in various parts of the country. In the capital Lusaka alone about 19 different cases of thefts of either fuel or batteries from the towers were recorded late last month.

The total loss incurred by the company through the thefts amounts to USD60, 000 in just one month, according to Fayaz King, Airtel managing director.

Other affected areas of thefts across the country include Northern, Central and Eastern Provinces. The power supply (UPS) batteries are used during power outages to run network towers.

Some of the stolen batteries from different Airtel towers around Lusaka were recovered last week by police after the company reported the matter to the police.

Airtel's customer service director, Joseph Kafwariman, said at Chawama Police Station where the batteries were displayed that there had been rampant thefts of the UPS batteries at tower sites around the country.

Kafwariman said the thefts “were frustrating efforts of the company to deliver quality service through environmentally friendly energy.”

The batteries, Kafwariman said helps provide energy for a good three hours in the event that power from the national grid is interrupted.

Kafwariman urged the general public to help curb vandalism of company’s property in order for the company to provide quality services. He commended the swift action by the police in apprehending the culprits.

Police spokesperson, Elizabath Kanjela said the three suspects who were arrested on March 29 were believed to have been contracted by a Lusaka firm to install the said batteries.

However, other batteries that have been stolen around the country have not yet been recovered and the thieves are still at large.

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