By Pule Thole, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Safety:
The DA is deeply concerned with the rise in copper theft in Kimberley and surrounding areas.
In the past two months (September and October) more than 20 individuals have been arrested for copper cable theft.
It is estimated that cable copper theft costs the country about R5 billion including losses, replacement costs and the cost of increased security measures.
Copper cable theft is a lucrative industry driven by the increase in market price but has devastating effect on households such as power and telephonic outages which become an inconvenience to many residents.
While the DA welcomes the introduction of the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill 2015 by cabinet to parliament, we still believe the establishment of “Copperheads Units” is urgently needed.
The amendments make provision for changes to the laws pertaining to infrastructure related offences such as copper cable theft and telephone lines.
Stricter provisions are provided for the granting of bail, sentencing of offenders and the creation of a new offence to criminalise damage to essential infrastructure caused by tempering of interfering with the functioning of basic services.
The DA strongly believes the establishment of specialised Metal Theft units will greatly address this challenge.
In the DA run City of Cape Town The Copperheads – an elite task team of specially trained officers – were constituted in 2007 to combat the theft of non-ferrous metals, which is rife in Cape Town.
Since its inception, this task-force has arrested between 200 and 300 people a year and has brought about significant reductions in financial losses resulting from copper theft.
The DA has been long calling for the establishment of similar units in Kimberley and key areas across the province.
We further call on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to make copper theft a priority crime.
This will secure more resources and more experienced personnel for the fight against copper theft, as well as placing more responsibility on SAPS to investigate and resolve copper theft cases.