Getrude Makhafola
4 minute read
4 May 2022
10:17 pm

Cable theft: Gordhan wants scrap metal exports stopped

Getrude Makhafola

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is working on a plan to stop exports to international markets and begin the fight against cable theft.

General views of the George Goch Station, 10 September 2020, as it experiences rampant theft of cables and steel surrounding the train railway network. Picture: Michel Bega

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says government should halt the exporting of scrap metal in order to deal with the continuing stripping of South Africa’s infrastructure and vandalism.

The minister was responding to MPs’ questions in the National Assembly along with other ministers in the economic cluster on Wednesday.

“It is my firm view that the export of scrap metal should be banned for a while as a start, to ensure that there is no external market from the theft and vandalism.

“This is a matter that the DTIC [Department of Trade, Industry and Competition] is working on, it will begin to change the face of theft of infrastructure the sooner we have strong measures in place for that.”

He said the protection of infrastructure was an ongoing conversation across government.

ALSO READ: Three Gauteng metros lose R1m a day to cable theft

The coal sector, said Gordhan, has over the years ensured security along the Mpumalanga coal belt, which should be extended to other areas across the country through partnerships with government.

“That is the kind of security we want to see on all rail corridors, there is no doubt that copper and rail theft and vandalism is having a disastrous effect on the efficiency of logistics in the country.

“We are also working with the police to ensure teams are made available at the appropriate points where the vandalism is taking place in order to understand who is behind it.”

The spate of copper cable theft, whose demand is driven by scrap metal dealers, is costing the economy billions of rands due to resultant power outages and stolen rail tracks.

Power utility Eskom on Wednesday told 702 that it has suffered approximately R2 billion in direct losses every year as a result of cable theft.

Eskom’s group security acting general manager Karen Pillay said the remote sites are often vandalised to a state of total disrepair.

“At Eskom we experience R2 billion in losses due to cable theft. Between all the SOEs in the country, particularly Transnet, Prasa, Telkom and Eskom, it equates to approximately R7 billion in losses per annum,” Pillay said.

READ MORE: Eskom suffers R2 billion in losses a year due to cable theft and vandalism

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told MPs that rail security officers were deployed wherever railway network was being revived. There were more than 2,000 security personnel, with some of them posted along the Pretoria-Mabopane train line, said the minister.

“The SAPS [SA Police Service] is not in a position to send additional police officers to guard our rail network. So we are complementing that with security companies, and we are doing very well regarding that.”

Transnet is rolling out plans to open bidding processes for access to its vast rail network and monetise rail freight. It hopes that millions in tons of cargo will be transported through the mostly unused rail network.

The Container Corridor, which runs between Gauteng and Durban, and the South Corridor, which runs from Gauteng to East London, is open for this first phase of third party access for a 24-month period between 2022 and 2024.

Meanwhile, residents at Siyahlala informal settlement in Langa, Cape Town, who erected shacks along railway lines would soon be relocated, said Mbalula.

The residents have no water and sanitation services in Siyahlala, and furthermore, the shacks are preventing Metrorail from opening the Central rail line beyond Langa.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe asked Mbalula why the government hasn’t relocated the residents as per a 2021 court order.

The minister remarked that constant court challenges by Western Cape landowners prevented the re-settlement of the shack dwellers.

“We’ve been working hard to relocate them. The main issue as you would know, which is an obstacle and impediment in the Western Cape, is securing land parcels.

“The Department of Public Works did give us land, but when we went to ready it for occupation, we were met with a court interdict by the owners…so the question of land in the Western Cape is about ownership. -those who own the land vs those who do not have,” said Mbalula.

“The people who own the land are the wealthy and would not agree to give us land to be occupied by people from Siyahlala.”

Another meeting with Human Settlement Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi is scheduled for Thursday to finalise the preparations for another piece of land that was recently secured.

“We are working with the Western Cape government , the City of Cape Town and the Department of Human Settlements and secure the railway line…I can assure you that the line will re-open for trains soon while people are being relocated.”

NOW READ: Families living along Prasa railway in CT to be evicted by Nov