Two arrested over Swakop River bridge rail theft

VANDALISED … A lengthy stretch of bridge railing on both sides of the Swakop River bridge has been plundered for over a decade. Photo: Adam Hartman

Two men were arrested on Tuesday after allegedly stealing brass rails from the Swakop River bridge outside Walvis Bay.

Erongo police spokesperson warrant officer Tuyenikelao Tashiya-Fernando this week said the suspects, identified as James Hamukoto (26) and Vilho Kambwali (30), were caught in possession of the stolen property on Tuesday.

The suspects allegedly removed the rails by hitting them with a hammer between Monday and Tuesday.

Four stolen brass pipes were recovered by the authorities.

“The successful apprehension of these individuals is testament to the diligent work of our officers and the cooperation of the community,” Tashiya-Fernando said.

“This should serve as a stern warning to those contemplating similar actions.”

Moses Mumbaru of Rubicon Security, one of the primary responders to the theft, earlier this week said: “We were alerted by the sound of tampering at the bridge at around 01h00.”

He and other security officers then made their way to the area of the Swakop River bed under the bridge, he said.

“We heard the hitting, and then it stopped a little before we heard the suspects enter the bushy area. Unfortunately for them, they were coming right our way,” Mumbaru said.

As the suspects approached, the guards came out of the bushes, shining their flashlights in the suspects’ faces, he said.

One suspect allegedly ran away, upon which a warning shot was fired.

“It’s clear from the method used that this isn’t their first time. These activities suggest a well-organised operation with a ready market for stolen goods,” Mumbaru said.

The police were summoned and Hamukoto and Kambwali were arrested.

They appeared in the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and were remanded in custody with the case postponed.

No bail was granted.

Police investigations continue, and they are urging the public to come forward with any information that could lead to further arrests or the identification of individuals or entities purchasing the stolen items.

Metal theft has been a growing concern for coastal towns, with the railing being stolen from the 55-year-old Swakop River bridge for over a decade.

A section of the Erongo Regional Electriciry Distributor powerline was in the process of being stolen near Rössing Mountain on Monday, causing major interruptions in radio frequencies.

Some NamWater infrastructure has also been damaged due to scrap metal theft over the last few years.

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