COSATU welcomes government’s proposed temporary ban on scrap copper and steel exports

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes and supports government’s proposals to place a temporary ban on scrap copper and steel exports as a measure to stem the flood of cable theft crippling essential economic infrastructure, in particular Eskom, Transnet, Metrorail and Telkom.  This will be critical to stemming the tide of the ever-increasing cable theft crippling the economy and hampering its revival.

The problem of cable theft has become an albatross around the economy’s neck and costs the economy over R50 billion in lost infrastructure and earnings in 2021 alone.  It has plunged many communities into darkness and economic upheaval, when Eskom power stations are sabotaged. 

Critical economic sectors like mining, manufacturing and agricultural products have been disrupted from reaching their domestic and international markets timeously. This threatens thousands of local jobs, weakens these sectors and denies the state badly needed revenue to provide public services.

The severe disruptions of Metrorail which transports 10 million workers and commuters to their destinations in the major cities is unsustainable.  This has resulted in the deaths of some rail commuters when signals were not able to warn oncoming trains in time to prevent collisions.

The theft of cable is driven by sophisticated local and international criminal syndicates.  The placing of a temporary ban on scrap copper and steal exports will hopefully help disrupt this trade and the relevant supply chain networks.  The government needs to move with speed to put in place this ban and the additional necessary interventions if it is to achieve its important objectives.

Additional critical interventions needed to stem this flood of cable theft include:

·       Formalising and subjecting to tight regulations and controls, the scrap metal sector.  Those who cannot provide proof of origin of their scrap metals, must be shut down.

·       Utilising the full powers of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act which allows for the sentencing of hefty sentences for those convicted of cable theft, e.g. minimum two years for those stealing cable, 10 years for dealers and up to 30 years for the syndicates orchestrating these criminal activities.

·       Closer collaboration between and resources for the SAPS, SANDF, SSA, SARS, NPA, and the judiciary as well as private security operators to prioritise cable theft cases.

·       The immediate deployment of the SANDF to secure railway infrastructure and the revival of the SAPS Railway Unit.

·       Development of alternative materials to use in place of copper cables.

If the economy is to recover and grow, then the avalanche of cable theft must be decisively dealt with and treated as a national emergency.  It requires government, business, labour and communities to work together.  The failure to do so will see key economic sectors and SOEs continue to bleed, workers’ jobs and wages lost, crime rise, and communities plunged further into poverty.

Issued by COSATU 

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 010 219 1339
Cell: 060 975 6794