Thieves ‘stripping parliament of copper cables’

05 October 2021 - 15:55
By Andisiwe Makinana
The department of public works and infrastructure says it is not aware of stripping of copper pipes in the parliamentary precinct. File photo.
Image: GCIS The department of public works and infrastructure says it is not aware of stripping of copper pipes in the parliamentary precinct. File photo.

It seems no place is safe from SA’s copper thieves.

TimesLIVE can reveal thieves have been stripping copper wire from parliament’s bathrooms. Taps and copper pipes from toilets in two of the institution’s buildings were missing, according to parliament sources.

Two well-placed sources said there were no signs of break-ins and suspects could be people who legitimately entered the precinct. The sources indicated contractors were the main suspects in this regard.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed the institution was aware of the reports or statements regarding the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) building and Marks Building which houses the opposition parties’ offices.

Mothapo said reports of copper removal from the NCOP building were received at a time when the building had been handed over to the department of public works and infrastructure for renovations.

“The contractor cordoned off the NCOP area, and they had exclusive access to the building as it was a construction site. Therefore, regarding all activities during the said period, the department of public works and infrastructure is best placed to respond,” said Mothapo.

He said the building was only handed back to parliament upon completion of renovations.

The report about theft in the Marks Building was inaccurate as the reported toilet had been entirely removed some time ago because it was no longer needed, he said. The area, which is in the basement, had not been in use for years, said Mothapo.

The department of public works and infrastructure said it was not aware of stripping of copper pipes.

“Both buildings were under renovations when replacement of services took place. When the buildings were handed over, they were fully functional,” said public works spokesperson Thamsanqa Mchunu.

Mchunu said if there was theft in the precinct, it should be reported to the relevant authorities.

Parliament has been largely deserted since the introduction of the lockdown, with only a handful MPs and staff working from the precinct and most of its business conducted remotely. The legislature has been closed for a large part since June last year, and lately to allow MPs to campaign ahead of next month’s local government elections.

The stripping of copper cables is not the first breach of security in recent years.

In April 2017, at least five computers were stolen from the SABC offices on the first floor of the Marks Building. On that occasion, there was no sign of forced entry into the newsroom.

There are supposed to be police guards at the entrances of all the buildings, as well as at all parliamentary gates.

Parliament’s stringent security appears to be even tighter since the lockdown, with only one entrance and exit to the precinct to ensure everyone going in is screened according to Covid-19 protocols.

In July 2015, EFF leader Julius Malema’s parliamentary office was burgled. At the time, then EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said documents containing Malema’s travel and security information were removed from the office.

In September 2016, detectives were dispatched to parliament to investigate a break-in at the offices of then National Assembly house chairperson Thoko Didiza. She and her secretary informed parliament’s security service that her office door had been locked but it was open when she arrived for work the following day.