State-owned enterprises collaborate to curb vandalism of infrastructure

State-owned entities are collaborating to try to stamp out infrastructure vandalism. Stock photo.
State-owned entities are collaborating to try to stamp out infrastructure vandalism. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/123ucas

The CEOs of state-owned entities Eskom, Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), Telkom and Transnet on Friday hosted a round-table with key stakeholders to seek solutions and discuss progress in tackling theft and vandalism of infrastructure.

The meeting, under the banner of the Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure (ESCI) Forum, was called as the economic toll of damage to equipment and infrastructure has reached a point where drastic measures are required.

The CEOs said incidents of copper cable theft, electricity poles and battery theft from telecom base stations, electricity theft and illegal connections, vandalism and malicious damage to property, extortion and bribery, burning of train coaches and theft of rail lines have been on the increase.

Telkom CEO Serame Taukobong said the county’s critical infrastructure was a platform for economic activities and a catalyst for growth that needed to be protected.

“Telkom Group is characterised by high levels of crimes of cable theft or sabotage, battery theft and vandalism of infrastructure. These crimes hamper the provision of basic essential services to industries and communities,” he said.

Telecommunication services were essential for daily business electronic transactions, use of the internet for educational and entertainment purposes and streaming. “Therefore it is incumbent upon every citizen to protect and report infrastructure crimes,” he said.

The entities said economic damage due to copper theft had been estimated at more than R45bn annually.

Prasa acting CEO Hishaam Emeran said the agency was confident that through the forum, they would turn the tide.

“Theft and vandalism of essential economic infrastructure have dealt Prasa and the country's economy a heavy blow that cannot be quantified,” he said.

Since the establishment of the forum in 2020, some progress has been made, including the establishment of a specialised multidisciplinary unit to address economic sabotage, extortion at construction sites and vandalism of infrastructure.

The SA Police Service had also set up a task team on cable theft and damage to essential infrastructure, while the cabinet had approved a public consultation process for proposals to restrict the trade of illegally obtained scrap and processed metals.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said electricity infrastructure was central to the country’s economy, growth and development, and every citizen and business had a role to play in stopping the devastation, sabotage and destruction of critical infrastructure.

“Eskom is encouraged by the support it is receiving from the security and law enforcement agencies, including the commitment by the National Prosecuting Authority to commence the prosecution of the many serious crimes that have negatively affected Eskom,” he said.

Transnet CEO Portia Derby said: “Transnet Freight Rail has experienced an exponential increase in incidents over the last five years, which has resulted in increased tonnage and revenue losses and increased repair costs.

“Over 1,500km of cable has been stolen in the past five years, with a net financial impact of R4.1bn. We are confident the co-ordinated and focused response by the ESCI Forum will yield positive results.”


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