By Cobus Coetzee
Cape Town – The navy has started to strip its Silvermine radio antenna field of equipment because it‚Äôs not sure when the fence supposed to keep out looters, will be fixed.
Radio communication between naval vessels at sea and Simon‚Äôs Town have to be relayed via Durban.
The navy was deaf in one ear, said Tim Flack of the SA National Defence Union.
Since last year thieves have stolen more than 5km of copper wire from the Silvermine communication centre and its antenna field inside the Table Mountain National Park.
SANDF spokesman Xolani Mabanga said the navy had not guarded the upper antenna field and thieves had stolen the copper.
The navy has to replace the fence that has deteriorated completely.
‚ÄúThe navy has removed all valuable equipment from the antenna field to prevent further theft,‚Äù said Mabanga.
Flack said union members were concerned about security at Silvermine and Simon‚Äôs Town and had raised it with management. ‚ÄúThe blame was just shifted and no one rectified the problem,‚Äù he said.
Mabanga said the navy had asked the Department of Public Works to replace the fence but wasn‚Äôt sure when this would happen because of ‚Äúresource constraints‚Äù.
He said the naval communication centre and Simon‚Äôs Town had lost radio coverage in certain areas but still had full satellite cover. Vessels in the northern Mozambique channel to combat piracy were not affected.
Mabanga said the police were investigating the theft and the department had started its own probe.
Defence analyst Helmoed R√∂mer Heitman said:
‚ÄúThe navy can probably manage with just the Durban communication centre but if we need to send ships up the west coast of Africa we will need Silvermine, especially should piracy increase there,‚Äù he said.