South Africa wants to ban scrap metal trading to fight cable theft

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) gazetted a draft proposal to crack down on illegal dealings relating to scrap metal trade in South Africa for public comment, and the African National Congress (ANC) is in full support.

The document proposes implementing a six-month export ban on scrap and waste metal, including copper cable, and a permit system for exporting specified semi-processed metal products.

Set out in three envisioned stages, the proposal includes a new, improved registration process for scrap buyers and sellers to improve monitoring, policing, and law enforcement.

It also suggests implementing potential limitations on ports and border posts used for scrap metal trading and making changes to South African legislation to make it more challenging to trade stolen metal and copper cabling.

Minister Ebrahim Patel invited public comment on the proposed members to be submitted within 21 days.

The document was published on 5 August 2022, meaning today — 26 August — is the final day for submissions.

While bolstering regulations around the trade of scrap metal in the country, the draft proposal aims to tackle cable theft.

“South Africa faces a serious challenge from theft of metal and the associated impairment and destruction of infrastructure,” the document reads.

“The incidents of theft have increased markedly in recent years, as has the detrimental impact on the economy and society more generally.”

Not only does cable theft impact South Africa’s economy, it also worsens the plight of the country’s national and municipal power utilities.

According to Eskom, the theft of cables, transformers, overhead lines, and conductors costs the national power utility around R2 billion each year.

City Power — the City of Johannesburg’s municipal power utility — also revealed that it spent R100 million in one year fighting cable theft.

“We now have to intensify security deployment over hotspots where City Power has substations and cable networks,” City of Johannesburg mayoral committee member Michael Sun said.

“Alone in one year, City Power spent about R100 million on security deployment.”

Instances of copper cable theft belonging to electricity suppliers can also cause extensive power outages while utilities work to replace the stolen cabling.

The ANC pledges its support

The African National Congress has announced its support for the proposals published by the DTIC.

“The ANC rejects suggestions that policing alone can stop cable theft as disingenuous, because there are 118,000km of copper cable belonging to Telkom; there are 425,000km of cable belonging to Eskom and there are 25,000 km of railway lines,” it said in a statement.

It added that the proposals align with its 54th national conference and 6th national policy conference outcomes — with the latter proposing banning the scrap metal trade entirely.

“To show how seriously the ANC takes this matter, the 6th National Policy conference concluded that ‘the destruction and theft of and trade in public infrastructure should be treated as treason’,” the ANC stated.

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South Africa wants to ban scrap metal trading to fight cable theft