As part of a hard-hitting strategy to combat the scourge of copper cable theft, the Mayor of Cape Town has invited the scrap metal industry to rout out unscrupulous dealers trading in stolen metals.
At a top-level summit held today (19 June 2007) in Cape Town with business leaders and scrap metal merchants, Mayor Helen Zille said that the multi-million rand theft of non-ferrous metal items threatened to bring Cape Town 'to its knees'.
"The City has budgeted millions to upgrade infrastructure. It simply cannot afford to have entire services rendered useless just because of stolen cable that is sold to scrap dealers for a few rand," she said.
In the past 12 months alone, it has cost Cape Town ratepayers R22 million to replace stolen and repair vandalized cables and equipment at substations, reservoirs, sewage pump stations and on other Council property.
"We want to hear from honest scrap dealers what the city council can do to close down access points to unethical traders. I appeal to the industry to clean up their act and to help solve the problem instead of being part of the problem," said Mayor Zille, whose own father was a scrap merchant dealer.
"We must also get parliament to speed up the Second Hand Goods Bill so that we can target the very heart of illicit scrap metal transactions. Unless we cut off the underground sources, we will never solve the problem.
"We need more checks and balances in our criminal justice system in terms of stricter legislation and more effective law enforcement. If necessary, we should bring in the Scorpions," she said.
Representatives of the scrap metal industry agreed to set up a dedicated task team to pinpoint loopholes in the supply chain from the 'bucket shops' to the large industry players.
"The other major problem is drug addiction. About 70% of all violent crimes are committed by perpetrators under the influence of drugs," said Mayor Zille.
"We must make it difficult for people to steal and sell council property. Some communities cover up criminal activity within their midst for fear of reprisals, or out of a desire to protect friends or family members. We need to make the consequences so clear that no one will want to keep quiet," she said, urging the public to make use of the City's 24 hour cable theft line, 0800 222 771.
According to Rens Bindeman, consultant to the City's Cable Theft Task Team, the illegal trade in copper cable has been escalating in Cape Town since 2005.
"Cape Town is now the second or third worst hit city in the country, with up to 400 thefts being reported each month. Although much is being done behind the scenes, we urgently need a concerted effort to curtail this scourge," he said.
According to Albert Schuitmaker of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the negative social and financial repercussions of cable theft amounted to 'economic sabotage'.
"Government needs to appoint a judicial enquiry to address flaws in the law enforcement system. Cable theft must be classified as 'serious organized crime' so that we can bring in the 'big guns' such as the Asset Forfeiture Unit," he said.
Business Against Crime undertook to meet with the Non-ferrous Theft Combating Committee (NFTCC) and to provide the Mayor with a list of action plans and timetables by July 10, 2007.
Cllr Pieter van Dalen, head of the City's cable theft task team pledged the city council's wholehearted commitment to do everything necessary to fight the problem.
"Since it was established in September 2006 by the City's Utility Services Portfolio Committee, the task team has, in co-operation with different role players, successfully apprehended 64 copper cable thieves," he said.
19 JUNE 2007
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
TEL: 021 400 2201
COUNCILLOR PIETER VAN DALEN
CHAIRMAN: CABLE THEFT TASK TEAM
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
CELL: 083 655 2203
CELL: 082 850 5318