Maputo — Thieves on Monday morning stole cables that supply electricity to the suspension bridge over the Bay of Maputo, thus sabotaging the bridge's lighting system, according to a report on Radio Mozambique.
The theft took place at an electrify transformation post in the Maputo neighbourhood of Malanga, north of the bridge. The thieves cut the cables that supply power to the bridge and the access road.
The electricity company, EDM, managed to rig up an alternative which, by 21.30, was providing lighting to the main section of the bridge.
This is only "a partial solution", said Silva Magaia, the chairperson of Maputo-Sul, the public company that runs the bridge. "It allowed the main bridge, which is the most dangerous part, to be illuminated".
EDM is working on a definitive solution. This may not be simple, since the material damaged by the thieves was ordered from outside the country, and EDM does not have spares in stock. This material was acquired specifically because of the suspension bridge. It was supposed to have a life of 50 years, but it has been sabotaged within five weeks of the inauguration of the bridge on 10 November.
The sabotage did not affect the toll gate, since this draws its power from Katembe, at the southern end of the bridge.
There is so far no definitive assessment of the cost of the sabotage, but Magaia said the initial indication is that it will come to more than a million meticais (about 16,100 dollars, at current exchange rates).
Theft of cables and other metallic parts is a recurrent problem for EDM, and the police rarely catch the thieves. Magaia recalled that even during the construction of the bridge, there were problems with thieves. "We would lay down several metres of cable, and the following day they weren't there", he said.
Maputo-Sul points out that it was set up to build and manage the bridge and its connecting roads, and not to provide security, Nonetheless it is now working with a private security company to protect the most vulnerable points.
New ways of protecting the bridge and its associated infrastructures are also being tested, including electrified fencing.