Two suspects who were allegedly stealing fuel from a Transnet pipeline in Vosman, Mpumalanga, were caught in the act by drone technology.

The Hawks in Mpumalanga said the arrest came after they followed information which was being received from the drone team who were on duty, monitoring the pipelines, when they saw suspicious people along Transnet’s fuel pipeline.

Captain Dineo Sekgotodi, Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson said the two suspects were arrested and charged for theft of fuel and tampering with essential infrastructure.

“The security made an observation and saw the suspects allegedly digging the ground on top of the fuel pipe line.

“The matter was reported to Fidelity Security, which summoned the law enforcement. The team arrived and arrested two suspects whilst others fled the scene in the ensuing chaos”.

She said the Mpumalanga Tactical Response Team, the Middelburg-based Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation, Local Criminal Record Centre Witbank and Fidelity Security, were involved in the arrests which took place on February 25.

On Monday, the suspects, Delphas Joeman Shabangu, 44, and Nkosinathi Clement Ngobeni, 23, appeared before the eMalahleni Magistrate’s Court and they were remanded in custody.

“During the inspection, it was discovered that the pipeline was damaged but no spillage was detected.

Sekgotodi also said “The equipment used during the commission of crime was seized and will now form part of an ongoing investigation”.

The suspects are expected back in court on March 10 for a formal bail application.

Meanwhile, during his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said economic crimes including cable theft, construction site disruptions and land invasions, hampered the economic activity and discourage investment in the country.

He called on law enforcement agencies to treat those crimes seriously as they hampered the economy.

Ramaphosa further said the government would continue to take steps to combat crimes such as cable theft, railway infrastructure vandalism, land invasions, construction site disruptions and the attacks on truck drivers.

“Crime and violence continues to undermine people’s sense of safety and security. Tackling crime is central to the success of our recovery.

“Crimes like cable theft, railway infrastructure vandalism, land invasions, construction site disruptions and attacks on truck drivers hamper economic activity and discourage investment.

The president also said “We have taken steps and will continue to stop these crimes and deal with those responsible in terms of the law”.

He said the task teams had been set up in a number of provinces to deal with extortion and violence on sites of economic activity.

Ramaphosa added that “We are also fast-tracking the implementation and capacitation of the Border Management Agency to curb illegal immigration and cross-border crime”.