MTN SA Says Batteries Are Being Stolen At An Alarming Rate. They Could Be Ending Up In Zimbabwe

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
Base stations

MTN has said there’s been an alarming rise in incidents of battery theft which has been adversely affecting their operations. In the past two weeks alone, MTN said they have lost 199 batteries and in April the company lost 733 batteries.

Though the problem is countrywide, the most affected areas are currently Soweto, Tembisa, Vereeniging and Parktown.

Battery theft and related vandalism is costing MTN hundreds of millions of rand and the impact on the entire industry is exorbitant.

There is a high cost to customers and network providers each time a battery is stolen, keeping in mind that as many as four to 16 batteries need to be replaced at each site.

To replace batteries at 100 sites, for instance, would cost well over R10-million and then several more millions would be required to cover the costs of fixing the damage done to the cellphone towers.

MTN South Africa GM for network operations Ernest Paul

Although MTN has tightened their security, attempts at stealing batteries have only gotten more violent with guards now being assaulted and shot at, according to TechCentral.

Why now?

Well, a certain country north of South Africa is facing a crippling energy crisis and this has ramped up demand for batteries and solar equipment. A friend of mine who works for a company that sells solar equipment recently told me that their company has had to be very careful when importing batteries from South Africa because batteries stolen from base stations are making their way into Zim at an alarming rate. At the time I had no way of confirming any of this but the recent claims by MTN seem to tie in with that narrative.

It is important to realise they may be buying stolen goods if the asking price is way below the market price of about R28 000/battery.

If a battery has any markings or may look used and doesn’t physically come out of a sealed box, then it could be stolen. Criminals often also look to sell these stolen batteries on social media platforms like Facebook. Batteries are increasingly sought on black markets especially in neighbouring countries

Ernest Paul

This calls for some serious diligence when buying batteries because you might be buying a battery belonging to MTN or in more plain terms, a stolen battery.

According to TechCentral, the major battery brand being used by network operators in South Africa is Leoch lithium. Apparently, this brand is not available to the public and if you find one of these being sold in second-hand condition or as refurbished you may want to investigate further before buying.

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  1. Farai

    I have no words to describe just how bad this website has become.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      Maybe words will help us improve the website, no?

  2. J

    I think its unfair to blame all problems on Zimbabweans. While we have our problems and certainly some of these batteries could be making their way to Zimbabwe, the logic to your conclusion is unfair. Stage one power cuts started in June and by that time MTN was already reporting high levels of theft for their batteries. You also have to remember that SA is also experiencing load shedding hence the high levels of battery theft. My main point is Zimbabweans are not always to blame for everyone problems.

    On a different note, please please please work on your editing. You risk losing credibility due to simple mistakes.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      You have a point. It might not be Zimbabweans stealing the equipment but it might end up being Zimbos buying the equipment. Stage one powercuts also started in May:
      Thanks for the editorial tip, will take heed of it.

    2. Raymond Chimhandamba

      Valid point J

  3. Zimbo

    I see a lot of people refuting this but just know that almost every Lithum Ion battery that comes in a metal case, is 48V (Telecoms standard voltage) and is rack mountable, has been stolen from SA. Go onto social media and search the plenty ads of people selling these. See for yourself then come tell us where these are coming from.

    We are very quick to defend our wrongs. Lets stop buying such batteries please

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      The problem is people assumed I’m saying Zimbos are stealing the battery but that’s not at all what I am saying… What I’m actually saying is regardless of who is stealing the equipment, it might be ending up in Zim

  4. Chancemore mabhurukwa

    In addition to the above point yes thieft may be there but it does not mean that if the economy of our country is hard we are thieves we had been struggling for years under sanctions but still today we are working so hard.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      I’m not saying Zimbos are stealing the batteries… What I’m actually saying is regardless of who is stealing the equipment, it might be ending up in Zim

  5. Trevor

    Any lithium battery sold for less than USD1000 is stolen. Especially the Leoch battery. I have seen GenKing selling these. When asked they won’t say where they get them from.

    Insurance companies in SA are taking huge losses and are currently in talks with Zimbabwe Police. Once they ready to move on this, a lot of people are going to be in big trouble.

    1. Felix

      Do a bit more research . Sa doesn’t have a monopoly on e manufacture ,supply or export of lithium batteries . Ur conclusion is presumptuous . Check e cost of these in China

    2. tiki

      Was in Harare last week and a huge well known outfit in Borrowdale sells brand new Blue Nova for 850. They also had larger ones, randing all the way to $80k. In RSA there are lots of brands selling for under $1,000 brand new. This is not to defend stolen lot but we need to ensure people doing clean business are not brushed the same. Gripe with Leoch is they must address all markets and not waste everyone’s time with trying to think that everyone must be battery expert and be able to discern stolen from genuine, or boast about being exclusive supplier to a section of the market. That is what creates demand that then drives thieves. This must stop by addressing legitimate supply. MTN must promote universal access to batteries to ensure people can charge their phones, its in their interest, and that will automatically remove the risk they see. Let’s do some system thinking to this important matter please.

    3. Farai Mudzingwa

      True something has to be done!

  6. Alfred Verenga

    All bad things linked to the Zimbo. We have messed up. Its a shame.

  7. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    Your friend claims these batteries are being imported into Zim at an alarming rate. Does this also mean that the batteries aren’t being checked at the port of entry, (on both sides of the border??), or that they are being smuggled in? Did they also provide names of such companies exporting these stolen batteries, or is it hearsay from a legit supplier to support their products and prices.

    Admittedly stolen batteries COULD be finding their way into Zim, but there’s little proof in the story to support this. Like someone also mentioned above, SA is also experiencing power cuts, alternative power sources are also in high demand there, yet somehow Zim is the prime suspect.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      The title acknowledges that the batteries COULD BE ending up in Zim. I did not say it’s a fact but just told you what I have been told and tried to show the connection between MTN’s complaint and the local situation. The MTN official also noted that these batteries are ending up in NEIGHBOURING countries. Now the finer details, I don’t have but if you’re going to buy a battery for an alternative power setup any time soon you can choose to ignore this article entirely because it’s filled with hearsay or you can be more diligent. You will use the information however you see fit sir/madam.

  8. Kudakwashe

    there is a shop i went to that is selling the 200ah/12v for R5 000 why should it only be a thousand dollars? The stolen batteries are there yes but there are cheaper shops around people just do not know and they are assuming tjey are expensive or they should be

  9. tiki

    Eish, try and not cause another xenophobic phase out there. While at it, offering solutions helps a lot. I am astonished & quite annoyed that Leoch are proudly selling to an exclusive market for something that must be basic to everyone? Why do they not make lots of these batteries and ensure anyone who needs it can get it. They are making people desperate and many simply do not have the tech knowledge required to assess. If one walks into a street shop in public place and buys, gets receipt etc, it is not humane to later on say they have stolen batteries when owners and law enforcement are not cleaning up the street. Some serious entity must make other lithium ion batteries available for the sake of regional development. By flooding the market one removes the black market demand side. On last note, be aware that there would be no need for batteries in RSA towers if there was no load shedding there. loadshedding is everywhere.

  10. Golden

    Went to one rag tag shop called Solar City along Julius Nyerere Way (Amato near flyover)

    They’re selling green batteries marked PROPERTY OF VODACOME includes the logo.

    Also, they sell second hand rack mounted lithium that clearly show marks of violent cutting disc removal. Go see yourself.

  11. Mariko

    Some one is selling Vodacom branded solar batterries on facebook. You can contact them on 0772 730 399 or 0712 974 859. I was wandering where these batteries came from. Chances are high that these are stolen batteries.

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