Unregulated scrap-yards pose serious risk to municipalities and businesses.
EMFULENI Local Municipality is faced with a challenge of theft of electricity infrastructure, which includes vandalism of substations, cable theft and illegal connections, costing the municipality millions of rands in losses.
According to the Metal Recyclers’ Association (MRA), the scrap metal industry contributes R15 billion annually to South Africa’s gross domestic product and creates 400 000 formal and informal jobs.
Talking during a high-powered meeting between government officials and business leaders, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister, Andries Nel called for improved efforts in regulating the sector.
Held at the Council Chambers of the Sedibeng District Municipality in Vereeniging on Friday, 7th September, the meeting explored possible solutions to theft, damage and vandalism of municipal infrastructure.
The Deputy Minister said thieves targeting municipal infrastructure were also threatening the economy and wellbeing of residents of the affected municipalities.
The meeting also heard proposals for longer and tougher sentences for those arrested, prosecuted and convicted of theft, damage and vandalism of municipal infrastructure because of the impact of these crimes on the economy of the country.
“The punishment meted out by the courts must fit the crime committed,” said Deputy Minister Nel.
The Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce and NAFCOC Sedibeng representatives and government officials resolved to work together to curb the demand in the black market where unregulated scrap metal dealers are thriving.
Currently in Emfuleni, electricity sub-stations and cables are vandalized and stolen regularly, leading to millions spent in repairs and replacement of infrastructure.
The Deputy Minister also heard about power outages as a result of cable theft, a situation which threatens the lives of residents and local businesses.
It is hoped that the Deputy Minister’s visit to different municipalities will culminate in the introduction of more stringent by-laws and law enforcement to regulate scrap metal dealers and prohibit the illegal sale of stolen cables and other municipal infrastructure.
It was revealed at the meeting that some local businesses were already spending large amounts of money employing security guards for electricity sub-stations.
This is to protect their businesses against cable theft, but consequently increases the cost of doing business and therefore threatens the jobs of the existing workforce.
The heads of different business formations pledged to work with government to help verify the legitimacy of local metal scrap dealers.
Scavengers jump onto a moving truck at the Boitshepiville landfill site looking for scrap metal.
By Thabiso Radebe