South Africa proposes scrap metal export ban to stem infrastructure collapse

The South African government plans to ban the export of scrap metal to tackle the widespread theft of copper cables and other forms of metal from public infrastructure that has crippled power supplies, prevented trains from running and damaged public facilities in many parts of the country.

Commerce, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim published proposals in the government gazette on Friday for public comment for a period of three weeks before the plans are finalized.

The first of three phases being considered proposes a six-month ban on all scrap metal exports, with future phases including a new and improved registration system for scrap metal buyers and sellers to improve monitoring, policing and enforcement. of the law as well as the limitations on ports and border crossings to be used for scrap metal trade.

Also suggested are changes to the law that would make it more difficult to trade in stolen copper and metal.

The proposals were drawn up following damage to public infrastructure by criminals who stole millions of rand worth of power cables, electricity pylons, railway tracks, traffic lights and manhole covers, which, according to the Department, had reached crisis levels.

“Criminals are targeting public infrastructure that taxpayers have invested in to expand service delivery to communities across the country.

“The economic damage from copper theft alone has been estimated at over R45 billion a year,” the ministry said, citing the results of research it had commissioned from an independent company.

Statistics released by national railways regulator Transnet showed that in a single week in April 2022, there were 123 attacks on South African rail infrastructure, including the 39.4km theft of copper cable. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2021, the length of cable stolen each year on Transnet lines increased from 120 km to 724 km, and the number of incidents increased from less than 2,000 to nearly 4,500.

Repairs to the crippled rail network across the country are estimated to cost billions of dollars and take several years, according to transportation industry experts.

The theft of electricity transmission cables and pylons has left national electricity supplier Eskom billions of dollars in debt and repeatedly failing infrastructure at power plants, forcing the utility to implement load shedding of up to up to six hours a day nationwide. Trade and industry have suffered, with huge losses to the economy, because of this.

There has also been growing public outrage at the risk to the safety of communities and especially children when criminals damage and leave behind live electrical cables exposed.

The research found that the export of metal provides a crucial monetization channel for criminals, and that South African ports and borders do not have sufficient resources to prevent the export of stolen scrap metal and semi-finished metal products .

“The sheer size of public infrastructure across the country has made it necessary to identify additional measures which, together with improved policing, can be effective in protecting public assets in the national interest,” the Department said. .

The latest proposal is part of a pledge by President Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation address in February that the government would take decisive action to address damage to public infrastructure caused by criminals who steal infrastructure containing metal. . Then they either disguise its origin and sell the metal to legitimate metal processors in South Africa, or they sell the metal to middlemen who export it.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)