Man ‘chasing snake’ sentenced to 30 years in jail for stealing Telkom cellphone tower batteries

In his defence,Tinos Ndebele said he was chasing a snake at the Telkom cellphone tower in Bloemfontein.
In his defence,Tinos Ndebele said he was chasing a snake at the Telkom cellphone tower in Bloemfontein.
Image: 123RF/ ALLAN SWART

The Bloemfontein regional court on Thursday sentenced a man who stole Telkom cellphone tower batteries worth R36,000 to 30 years imprisonment.

Tinos Ndebele was found guilty of tampering with essential infrastructure and theft from essential infrastructure.   

An alarm was triggered at a Telkom cellphone tower in Roodewal in June last year. When Telkom officials went to investigate, they found fencing around the tower damaged, a container broken into and the door forced open. Twelve batteries worth R36,000 were stolen from the container. 

A police forensic team lifted fingerprints from the crime scene and matched them to Ndebele's.

“In his defence during the trial, the accused gave a version that he was a snake catcher and on the said date he was chasing a king cobra. The snake went into the container, thus explaining his fingerprints found at the crime scene,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mojalefa Senokoatsane said. 

Prosecutor Petro van den Berg argued that the court should impose the maximum sentence on Ndebele as tampering with essential infrastructure offences was on the increase and harming the economy. 

“The accused was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment on a charge of tampering with infrastructure and 15 years’ imprisonment on a charge of theft from infrastructure.” 

The court ordered that five years of the sentence for theft from infrastructure run concurrently with the 20-year sentence.

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