SA now leading exporter of (cable) copper
Copper cable theft is having a devastating effect on the economy, resulting in indirect costs estimated at about R5bn a year.
Essential services provided by Eskom and Transnet have been seriously disrupted by the scourge, which has catapulted SA into becoming one of the world’s leading exporters of copper to countries such as China and India.
Last year there were 72533 reported incidents of copper cable theft and 10736 arrests were made, South African Police Services deputy provincial commissioner in Gauteng, Maj-Gen Shadrack Sibiya, told a special hearing in the National Council of Provinces yesterday.
Transnet’s security head, retired general Rodney Toka, reported that from 2008-09 to date, the parastatal had suffered 6917 incidents of cable theft to the value of R95,5m and at a replacement cost of R239m.
This excluded the cost of train delays and cancellations.
Eskom group executive for distribution Ayanda Noah proposed a special crime prevention unit to deal with copper theft.
She said in 2010-11 that an estimated R265m of copper cables had been stolen with an indirect cost to the economy of about R5bn. This included the cost of replacement and security; the shutdown of business operations; loss of income; loss of exports; power, communication and transport outages; and negative investor perceptions. There was also the human cost of accidents.
Ms Noah urged that harsher penalties be imposed on cable thieves, who were part of organised crime syndicates, she said.
Copper theft increased last month, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said yesterday. Spokeswoman Nonie Makhanya said its copper theft barometer registered R21,9m last month, up 4,6% from R20,9m in the previous month.
The recent increase in the copper price was a potential driving force for theft, she said.
This month the price climbed by R2776 to R63 506 per ton. The decline in the price last year due to uncertainty in the global economy meant that SA’s annual copper exports dropped by 4,8% in November, the chamber said.