Concern over dumping of cable coverings
The Zwartkops Conservancy has found about 1,000m of plastic casing stripped from copper cabling in the bush in Amsterdamhoek.
The conservancy’s vicechair, Dale Clayton, said on Wednesday a member of the organisation had discovered the stash recently while he was walking his dog on the old railway line embankment at the back of the Swartkops police station, near the corner of Amsterdamhoek Drive and Grahamstown Road.
“The copper has been taken out of the cables and about 1,000m of plastic and paper casing has been discarded,” he said.
“It’s a pollution concern to have this plastic lying around – and a security concern.
“This is the leftovers of what must be millions of rands worth of stolen copper.
“Nobody saw anyone suspicious and we don’t know when the stuff was dumped there or if it accumulated over a period but it doesn’t look old.”
The conservancy had alerted the Swartkops police station and was waiting for an official go-ahead to remove the rubbish, he said.
“Half a dozen of our members have collected it meanwhile, cut it into shorter strips and packed it all into 50 black rubbish bags ready to move.”
Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said: “There has been no cable theft reported, so it seems as if it was stolen and stripped elsewhere before being dumped there.”
According to the department of energy, copper cable theft is not only rife in SA but also the UK, US, China, India, Russia, Kenya and Nigeria.
“In the UK, British Transport Police, the force that maintains security on the rail network, has stated that reducing cable theft is one of the highest priorities,” it said.
“Only countering potential terrorist threats ranks higher.”
In South Africa, a 2010 study estimated copper cables worth R265m were stolen, with an indirect cost to the economy of about R5bn a year, the department reported.
“Electrical cable theft can result in the loss of an earth point or cable, and can cause death to innocent people and livestock, as well as causing serious damage to electrical appliances.
“The loss of a communication cable in rail operations can cause serious accidents between trains or at railway crossings.”
Stolen telecommunication lines could be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation if there was no telephone communication, the report said.
“The whole chain of this crime needs to be broken, including the export of these metals, to countries such as Korea, China, India and the United Arab Emirates.
“The problem is not likely to cease as long as non-ferrous cable metals prices remain sufficiently attractive to thieves.”
A 2015 University of Cape Town School of Business study says copper cable theft is crippling municipalities.
Electricity supply is interrupted and therefore the authority cannot supply or charge for power.
The municipality must also mobilise for the repair or replacement of cabling and instal security to try to prevent further theft.
“The result is increased operational costs and reduced municipal revenue to use for service delivery,” the study said.