There is something unusual going on in South Africa. Extended rolling blackouts have plagued the country for several months, an economic crisis continues to deepen, and over the past week, the rampant theft of power cables has left numerous major railways disabled.
On Tuesday, a 535-mile stretch of railway came to a grinding halt after gangs, organized by criminals, stole the power cables used to power the electric locomotives that use the railway. The trains carry iron ore and manganese from the large Sishen mine in the Northern Cape province to ports on the west coast.
According to a statement released by Transnet SOC Ltd., the state-owned operator of the line, "Security teams were immediately activated and are working with law enforcement agencies, stakeholders and customers to curb this security threat."
"Our employees will be working around the clock to get services back to normal and get customers' cargo moving as soon as possible," the statement concluded.
The 535-mile stretch of railway is the second one to be tampered with in the past week.
Last week, a 428-mile railway that runs from the Port of Durban to Gauteng province experienced "theft, vandalism, and rail damage" caused by gangs and was forced to significantly reduce its capacity as a result.
The country's troubles continued this morning as its rand fell to a record low against the dollar amid rising economic risks and increasing diplomatic tensions.
As Bloomberg reported, "The latest setback for investors is the government's plan to provide diplomatic immunity to attendees of BRICS meetings as it prepares to host Russian President Vladimir Putin at an August summit. That's added to power cuts that are hurting the economy, concerns over China's growth, and renewed gains in the U.S. dollar."
A week ago, South Africa's social-democratic party, the African National Congress, announced that the country could become a "failed state." Recurring issues with the nation's infrastructure and railways, along with the plummeting rand appear to validate such concerns.
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