Copper theft takes shine off doing business

Theft of copper cable continues to place a severe burden on doing business in SA, despite figures dropping 15,9% in May to 356t from 424t in April.

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The value of copper cable theft dipped to R23 million in May off its March peak of R34,7 million and is down from R27,5 million in April, according to the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).  “This is a welcome signal that public-private co-operation against copper theft is delivering tangible results,” said CEO of SACCI Neren Rau.

The police initiative, Operation Thibela, which aims to shut down the market for illegal goods, such as non-ferrous metals, is starting to deliver results, Rau said. “The police and the private sector are becoming increasingly sophisticated in preventing copper theft,” said Rau. However, copper theft remains at unacceptably high levels. Replying to a recent parliamentary question, communications minister Dina Pule, said that Telkom lost R382,72 million in repair and replacement costs related to copper cable theft in 2010/2011.

In KwaZulu-Natal, nearly 10 400 incidents of copper cable theft were reported from April 2011 to April 2012, according to a June parliamentary reply by KZN Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu. “The incidents took place throughout the province but it affects rural areas, small towns and small businesses in particular. Farms, bed and breakfasts and the rural hospitality industry in some places has suffered,” said Mark Steele, DA member of KZN’s legislature’s Economic Development and Tourism Portfolio Committee.

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Steele said the Copperheads, a dedicated copper theft taskforce established in Cape Town in 2007, had enjoyed huge success. The value of stolen copper and other metals stolen there had dropped from R22 million in 2007 to R500 000 in 2009. “We would like to see a Copperheads taskforce in KZN,” said Steele. The DA has formulated a five-step plan to address copper theft.

This includes implementing the 2009 Second Hand Goods Act; making copper theft a priority crime to secure more police resources and personnel; giving copper theft its own crime code to enable accurate data collection; and co-operating with security and copper theft experts to improve security at municipalities and parastatals. “There are sufficient plans in place to address copper theft,” said Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela. “Last year, Transnet appointed a head of security who has put together a team. We are focusing on increased security of all our assets and indications are that
we are getting somewhere.”