Minister of Police Bheki Cele has stated that in light of the theft of the theft of cables and other infrastructure, there is an intention is to establish specialised multi-disciplinary Economic Infrastructure Units (EIUs) upon the completion of a work study investigation (WSI) that “will determine the organisational placement, functional responsibilities, as well as the required human and physical resources.”
Cele, responding in June to a written parliamentary question posed by Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, stated that while awaiting the finalisation of the WSI, multi-disciplinary Economic Infrastructure Task Teams will be established. These will consist of intelligence operatives and operational information analysts; experienced and trained operatives within the visible policing and operations environment; experienced investigators from general and organised crime investigation, as well as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI); and experts from biology, ballistics, chemistry, scientific units and the Criminal Record Centre.
These Task Teams are to be established in 18 identified districts, across all provinces. These Task Teams will be piloted for a period not exceeding two years and reviewed after a period of 18 months.
Last year, political parties in Gauteng petitioned Parliament to tighten laws to deal ruthlessly with criminals destroying infrastructure belonging to entities such as Transnet, Eskom, Telkom and Rand Water.
The parties wanted to lobby the national government to set up a special rapid response team of highly trained police officers to deal with organised criminal syndicates who seek to undermine the economic security of the province.
The Gauteng Transport Authority reported rail infrastructure damages of over R170 million in 2020 and it is said that 80% of the province’s rail stations are now in ruins.
Between July 2021 to April 2022, 1 456 cases of vandalism and cable theft have been reported to City Power in Johannesburg alone, which cost the city R24-million in damages and repairs. This is not even factoring in the economic cost that rolling blackouts cause to businesses and homes. City Power is already spending R100 million annually on security measures.
Tabling the police budget vote in parliament in May this year, Cele said President Cyril Ramaphosa in his state of nation address said the ongoing vandalism and theft of economic infrastructure has damaged confidence and severely constrained economic growth, investment and job creation.
Cele said task teams will be established in identified hotspots to fight essential-infrastructure crimes, including theft of copper cables and illegal mining.
“Task teams will also tackle essential infrastructure crimes such as the tampering, damaging or destroying of infrastructure related to energy, transport, water, sanitation and communication services. Critical infrastructure crimes will also be on their radar, such as the attacking, damaging or theft of fuel pipelines and related crimes,” Cele said.
Ramaphosa earlier this year said the government has established specialised multidisciplinary units to address economic sabotage, extortion at construction sites and the vandalism of infrastructure.