MASERU — Districts in the southern region went without telecommunication services for two days after criminals vandalised Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL)’s fibre optic cable in Berea on Wednesday night.
The criminals cut nine telephone poles in Marabeng.
They also cut the fibre optic cable which connects Maseru and the areas in the southern region.
As a result there were no telecommunication services in Teya-teyaneng, Mapoteng, Maputsoe, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong on Wednesday night and a better half of Thursday.
Banks, hospitals and government departments were affected.
There were no data and voice services in those areas.
ETL officials said they noticed that the cable had been cut at around 8 pm.
It appeared the criminals were using an electric saw to cut the poles.
Although they had not yet quantified the damage it is estimated that it would cost the company more than M2 million in replacement costs and revenue.
By Thursday evening technicians had replaced the cable and the poles to restore services.
But that did not last for long because the criminals returned on Thursday night to destroy the cable, disrupting services once more.
ETL’s corporate affairs manager Mpine Tente said they suspect this was an act of sabotage because the cables were not stolen.
“We suspect sabotage or malicious act in these cases as nothing has been taken,” Tente said.
“The first incident occurred on Wednesday night at around 8pm where poles connecting the fibre optic cables were cut down.
“On Thursday we replaced the poles and services were available again the same day in the afternoon.”
She said the second incident happened on Thursday night after the poles and the cables had been replaced.
This time the criminals cut the cables but again they took nothing.
Tente said ETL was now working around the clock to restore services to the affected areas.
“At the moment we cannot say who could have done this but the person who did it is familiar with network services and knows where to hit in order to disrupt connectivity.”
“On the business side we were affected as our services were not being used. Also, the resources that will be used to replace the destroyed property could have been used in other places where services are needed,” Tente said.
“Communication is the backbone of the country’s economy.”
She said “it reflects badly on the company when services are not available and having to apologise to our clients yet the problem is not caused by the non-availability of network”.
Tente said in some cases they offer rewards to people who give information leading to the arrest of people who steal copper but unfortunately the sentences imposed by the courts are not deterrent enough to curb the problem.
In some cases sentences were suspended or suspects were given little bail which they are able to pay.