Copper theft is disabling government services

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Leader

The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape is calling for serious action to be taken against copper theft in the province. This comes after R300 000 worth of copper cables were reportedly stolen from Kimberley Hospital Complex last week.

Copper theft continues to be a highly coordinated and professional crime against which our public enterprises are failing to mount an effective defence. A recent reply to a national DA parliamentary question indicated that government is losing the war against copper theft. Since 2006, Eskom and Transnet have collectively lost R1.2 billion on a national level, through copper cable theft. These numbers echo those released by Telkom, which indicated that the entity lost R1.9 billion in repair and replacement costs due to copper theft between 2006 and 2011.

In contrast to Transnet, Eskom and Telkom, the DA has had great success in curbing copper theft through the Western Cape’s “Copperheads” taskforce established in 2007 in Cape Town. Since its inception, this taskforce has arrested between 200 and 300 people a year and has brought about significant reductions in financial losses resulting from copper theft. There is no reason why the above mentioned successes cannot be replicated in the Northern Cape, as such, the DA is advocating for a “Copperheads unit” to be established in Kimberley. This would be but a first step in tackling this mammoth problem.

At a national level there is also much that must be done and we call on provincial leadership to lobby for our DA solutions at a national level. These include implementing the Second Hand Goods Law of 2009, which creates a sold framework for law enforcement to pursue and persecute copper thieves. Copper theft should also be made a priority crime at the SAPS. This will secure more resources and more experienced personnel for the fight against copper theft, as well as replacing more responsibility on the SAPS to investigate and resolve copper theft cases. Furthermore, copper theft must be given its own crime code at the SAPS, so that reliable statistics on the incidence of copper theft can be gathered. Copper theft reduction targets must also be set by major parastatals and accompanied by comprehensive strategic plans to reduce copper theft. It is also necessary that there exists close cooperation between security and copper theft experts in order for parastatals and government institutions to improve their security operations.

Copper theft hampers the service delivery of our public enterprises and halts economic growth through its impact on the availability of transport and communications infrastructure. This means poor service delivery, slower economic growth and fewer jobs for our people. The time has come to take serious action to put a stop to copper theft once and for all.

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