Cape Town ‘killing cable thieves’

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The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will be laying charges against the Democratic Alliance (DA) for “trying to kill copper thieves”.

The federation says it will report deputy Cape Town mayor Alderman Ian Neilson’s plans to electrocute copper cable thieves to the Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
“Cosatu will also lay charges at the police station about the DA’s intention to do grievous bodily harm, through the policy of the City of Cape Town.”

Nielsen, during a radio interview, confirmed that the city leaves on electricity for streetlights during the day, in some areas, to deter thieves from stealing the copper, ITWeb reports.
“This clearly is with the intent to electrocute the thieves. There has, however, been no notice sent out telling people that the electricity will be live with current. During the day, people generally expect the electricity to be off, and so people, including kids, try to steel copper to get money,” says Cosatu.

It explains that this is not an attempt to justify theft, but to caution against the intention to try and kill copper thieves by leaving the current on.

Several years ago, the border fence was electrified and people trying to cross the fence to get into SA were killed, according to the federation. Getting into the country may have been illegal, but it was found to be a crime when the lives of people were endangered, where they could be injured or killed.
“For Nielsen to say this on public radio is an outrage and the city administration must be held to account for this.”

Neilson says the city rejects Cosatu’s comments “with contempt”.
“The characterisation of copper thieves as a bunch of innocent children shows how far Cosatu is removed from reality. The thieves are criminals who deserve to be dealt with harshly.
“They are criminals, not only because they cost the citizens of Cape Town millions, but also because they endanger the lives of pedestrians and vehicle occupants when street lights are off for extended periods along dark roads and dangerous intersections. These are the real innocents whose lives are placed in danger by copper thieves.”

He adds that the matter of cable theft is taken very seriously.
“Leaving street lights on during the day is not standard practise. It is a last resort measure to deter thieves, and is only employed in areas where the city has experienced high incidents of cable theft.”

The deputy mayor explains that in suburbs relatively unaffected by cable theft, the city is able to use day-night switches activated by photo sensors to automatically switch off in daylight.

However, in hot spots, disruptions are invariably caused by cable theft and the city leaves the lights on in these areas on an ad hoc basis.
“All electricity installations should be treated with caution and treated as live. There have been no deaths as a result of street lights being left on.”

Copper theft and vandalism have cost Cape Town in excess of R10 million over the last six months.
“The financial losses suffered by the city due to cable theft means that the city has to spend large amounts of money on repairs. This is money that could have been better spent on upgrading the present electrical infrastructure or to expedite the provision of an electricity supply to newly established areas.”

In August, energy minister Dipuo Peters said cable theft should be made a serious crime, since it’s currently regarded as a petty offence.

The department said copper theft cost the country approximately R100 million last year, excluding the indirect costs incurred due to the disruption the theft caused to the economy.
“A person who steals the copper is a murderer, a thief and a saboteur,” said Peters. She explained that without power cables, basic services, including emergency medical operations, are threatened.

Minister of community safety Dan Plato this week commended the actions of a business owner, which resulted in the arrest of four alleged copper thieves.

The owner’s steps also resulted in the confiscation of 50 tons of copper, valued at about R2.4 million, in Brackenfell.
“I wish to commend the vigilance of the scrap yard owner and his staff, whose tip-off to the authorities aided police to bust the perpetrators.”



The scrap yard owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, was approached by the suspects who wanted to sell two containers of granulated copper. The businessman suspected foul play and contacted the police.
“The assistance of community members to bring criminals to book is key to increasing safety, and I urge the public to follow this example and report suspicious activities and crime to the police,” said Peters.