In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, Transport Minister Ben Martins revealed yesterday that over R19.5 million has been lost by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and Metrorail as a result of copper cable theft.
Replies to a series of DA parliamentary questions have shown that parastatals Telkom, Eskom, Transnet, PRASA and Metrorail have lost in excess of R3.12 billion to copper theft between April 2006 and December 2011. This figure does not even include consequential losses.
Copper theft comes at a great cost to the public purse, impacts on service delivery and hurts the economy as a whole - trickling down to affect economic growth, productivity and job creation. These effects ultimately hit poor South Africans the hardest.
In contrast to national state entities, the DA has had great success in curbing copper theft through the “Copperheads” taskforce established in Cape Town in 2007. 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 this success cannot be replicated by national government entities.
The lesson we have learnt is that specialist, in-house copper theft prevention units work. Eskom losses are much lower than Transnet specifically because Eskom has an in-house copper theft prevention unit.
At a national level, the DA has put forward a five-step plan to solve South Africa’s copper theft crisis. The proposed steps include:
It is clear from these replies that government is not doing enough to combat copper cable theft.
The DA will continue to push for the establishment of Copperheads units nationwide and for the adoption of our proposals until government realises that this is a crime with consequences which harshly impact on our economy and South Africa’s poor. Neither should have to bear the brunt of government’s apathetic attitude towards curbing copper theft.