Gordhan calls for those involved in scrap metal theft to be charged with treason
SA is growing impatient for measures to be implemented to prevent infrastructure damage.
Cable theft significantly affects rail and electricity infrastructure. Photo for illustration: Saps
Those complicit in the theft of scrap metal, which has a debilitating knock-on economic aftershock, must be charged with treason, Department of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan emphasised.
During a media briefing on policy action to stop the theft and damage of public infrastructure, Gordhan said widespread “impatience” for measures to be implemented to prevent damage to Eskom, Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), among others, was being felt.
“Tax revenue will be impacted if we have the kind of disruptions if scrap metal theft continues unabated.”
He listed the “serious implications”.
Treasonous, deliberate actions
Until November this year, 742km of Transnet cable had been stolen – a 30% improvement on the previous financial year.
This equates to R2 billion in lost revenue.
In total, South Africa has 30 000km of rail lines, much of it unused due to theft, among other issues.
R700 million has been lost along the northern line, a rail line transporting coal from Limpopo and Mpumalanga to Richards Bay, due to theft alone.
“If this theft and sabotage continues and has the impact we’ve had in the past year on the economy and institutions, consideration should be given to charge those involved in Transnet, Eskom and Prasa with treason.”
He said syndicates were actively planned and consciously committed to disrupt the economy, with consequences for government revenue, the business sector and institutions.
Theft of copper, semi-finished and non-ferrous metals cost South Africa’s economy an estimated R130 million every day.
On an annual basis, this amount climbs to R47 billion – a figure far outweighing the physical value of the stolen goods, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said.
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Police task team making inroads
Police Minister Bheki Cele conceded a marked increase in damage to public infrastructure, with socio-economic factors often to blame for the theft of railway tracks and cables, and damage to pylons.
“Saps has a duty to protect public infrastructure”, and as such, Cele said the 20 economic infrastructure task teams (EITTs) have been established across the country since June.
“Although scrap metal dealers are deemed to be principal role players in crimes, intelligence indicates the bulk of stolen goods dealt with are through illegal exports and syndicated crimes,” he revealed.
From June to October, through 3 776 operations, 1 946 arrests have been made, an indication “the cluster is getting serious with this matter, which makes us feel good”.
These arrests include illegal mining, with the arrest of six alleged illegal mining kinpins last month.
Cele requested that “sister departments” and state-owned enterprises label their goods “so it’s easy for police to trace these things”.