Government targets cable thieves

South Africa’s government intends making it mandatory for all metal traders to get licenses and prevent them from dealing in cash, according to a Bloomberg report. The government intends making it mandatory for all metal traders to get licenses and prevent them from dealing in cash, a measure aimed at combating a massive illegal trade in cables and wiring stripped from rail, power and telecommunication lines.

Traders will also be required to conduct due diligence on their customers and track the origins of their products, the National Treasury said in the annual budget review, which was published in Cape Town recently.

Cable theft and vandalism is undermining the government’s efforts to revive the coronavirus-battered economy by bolstering more infrastructure investment, enhancing the power supply and improving transport links.

Freight rail operator Transnet SOC Ltd., telecommunications company Telkom SOC Ltd., power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa estimate that thieves and vandals cost them a total of R7 billion ($459 million) a year. The knock-on losses to the economy amounted to about R187 billion annually, the companies said in a joint statement last year.

The length of cable stolen annually from Transnet’s rail lines has surged 10-fold since 2016, with 1 423 kilometres (884 miles) taken in the eight months through November last year, according to the company. Thieves are increasingly targeting overhead wire as opposed to digging it up, which suggested that syndicates are becoming increasingly involved, it said.

Besides the direct costs, Transnet has also had to cut back on haulage when lines aren’t operational, leaving exporters of coal and other minerals unable to get their product to the ports.

Eskom security guards bust at scrapyard with stolen copper cables
Meanwhile it has been reported that two scrap metal dealers and three Eskom security guards have been arrested in connection with stolen aluminium and copper cables in the Free State.

Free State Hawks spokesperson Capt Christopher Singo said a multi-agency team and officials from Telkom, Eskom, Transnet and MTN carried out raids at a number of scrap metal dealers.

According to Singo, the team “conducted a disruptive operation in Parys” at identified scrap metal outlets suspected to be receiving stolen cables.

“Police and the stakeholders visited Salvage Junkie Scrap Metal where they discovered Eskom copper cable, Eskom aluminium, Telkom copper cables and municipal cables estimated to be worth more than R60 000.00,” said Singo.

While officials were searching the property, three security guards whose job it is to protect Eskom premises, arrived at the dealership with copper cables worth about R8 000.00. They were arrested after it was determined that the cables had been stolen from Eskom.