During the periods of national lockdowns, economic growth almost comes to a standstill. Connectivity becomes of paramount importance for the safety of our families: being able to communicate with those outside our homes, being able to work from home, business continuity and the overall economy of the Eswatini as well as for essential services that are required by the country during this time.
As lockdowns are lifted and economies start to recover, we have to deal with the lack of connectivity caused by cable theft, sabotage and vandalism cutting communication connectivity, where there is connectivity, it is slow hardly supporting economic growth.
Cable thieves also targeted this time to disconnect the country’s communication network by stealing, sabotaging and vandalizing the telecommunications infrastructure of both copper and fibre cables. EPTC infrastructure was not spared, more than 10, 000 customers were left without a connection around the country including businesses.
The criminals vandalized 90 percent of the deployed fibre cable infrastructure that had replaced copper cables around the country. They cut the fibre cables thinking it is still copper in the process damaging the new infrastructure and disconnecting many customers.
Cable theft places strain on the communities that we serve. Not being able to contact essential services such as the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS), fire emergency services, ambulances, means people are forced to leave their homes and travel to get the help they would be able to get while at home. Traveling forces them into long queues, spending money on transport instead of food for example, and exposing them to coronavirus (COVID_19).
From power cuts to network downtime, cable theft knocks out telephone communications and the internet completely, plunges communities in both urban and rural areas into darkness, and cuts off critical communications. This has resulted in the delayed service provision like faults clearing and installation of new lines and services in many areas around the country.
COVID_19 pandemic puts additional strain on resources, the slow pace at which our suppliers supply us with equipment due to their own lockdowns has affected our speed of faults clearing and service provision. Cable theft diverts the resources, manpower, and funding to repair and replace – from enabling the additional required connectivity and capacity to now wasting time and resources to deal with the cable theft. All essential services are heavily reliant on voice and data connectivity: REPS, courts, hospitals, clinics, banks, schools – all of which are heavily impacted by cable theft.
The damage caused by cable theft, sabotage and vandalism costs considerable amounts of resources: funds, manpower to repair and may take time due to delayed supply chain caused by lockdowns all over the world. Network and services expansion suffers because of cable theft, sabotage and vandalism, repairing and replacing stolen and vandalized infrastructure takes more time and funds. Areas that are still without connectivity include: Makholokholo, Pine Valley, parts of Motshane, Makholweni, Mbekelweni, and Nhlambeni