A historic Durban church is investigating tightening security after being raided by copper thieves for the fourth time in five weeks, causing more than R2m in damage and leaving the interior in ruins.
The raids at St Cyprian’s Anglican Church in Umbilo have left rector Father Dane Elsworth in a state of despair. He claims the police have not visited him once after he opened a case at the local police station in November.
Early that month, thieves struck three times in one week, stealing copper plating from the roof. The church organ, worth R3m, was damaged due to a leaking roof as a result of the copper theft.
Police confirmed that they were investigating a case of malicious damage to property and theft after unknown people broke into the church and damaged electrical wires, a switch box and lights. The electrical wires were pulled out from the pipes and taken.
But nothing appears to have come out of that investigation.
Two weeks ago thieves struck again at the church, stealing more copper. As a result of the theft the recent rains have leaked through the roof again, and the damage this time is estimated at more than R2m.
“The people have returned to steal more and the damage is now over R2m. The interior of this historic church is destroyed,” said a frustrated Elsworth.
“It has been a continuation of copper theft which I have reported three times. Not once have I had a visit from the police who resign themselves to the fact that it is perpetrated by the ‘Whoonga people’ who congregate under the bridge on the Esplanade.”
Whoonga is a street drug commonly used in Durban.
Elsworth was also frustrated at the lack of commitment from the city to address the issue of vandals.
“One could say we’re living with anarchy and there is no political will to address the social issues of Durban that lead to the high crime rate,” he said.
He said in light of the latest incident, the church was considering introducing security.
The thieves have also stolen copper from the top of the lower drains on the walls of the historic building, built in 1939. The church has served the community for more than 145 years.
The police were not immediately available for comment.