Mashatile calls on state to take tough action against criminals destroying infrastructure

Deputy President Paul Mashatile during a question and answer session in the NCOP. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Deputy President Paul Mashatile during a question and answer session in the NCOP. Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Published Apr 20, 2023


Cape Town - Deputy President Paul Mashatile wants the government to get tough in cracking down on the destruction of infrastructure across the country.

He said the government cannot stand idle when Eskom’s infrastructure and other state entities is destroyed every day by people stealing copper.

He said they will also look at the issue of whether to classify these crimes under terrorism, because they sabotaged the economy.

Eskom was not the only entity facing the attack from cable thieves, as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Transnet have also borne the brunt of the criminal syndicates stripping them of their infrastructure.

Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said last year they estimated that cable theft cost the country more than R40 billion a year.

Mashatile, who was in a question and answer session in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday, said government would have to take tough action.

He said if nothing happened, the economy would be seriously affected.

He said there were a number of measures taken to deal with the destruction of public infrastructure as criminals continued to operate unabated.

On whether they would seek to classify these crimes as terrorism, he said that matter would be considered.

Members of the NCOP wanted to know if government would consider classifying these crimes under terrorism as the damage to the economy was enormous.

“With respect to classification, we will consider that. All I can say is that government must be tough with this. Whether we classify it as part of terrorism or whatever, we can look into that. But we cannot continue not to intervene in a tough way when this is happening.

“The destruction of our infrastructure will affect our economy, that will put this country backward in a bad way. We have to prioritise this and act against people who are destroying infrastructure,” said Mashatile.

On whether the banning of the sale of scrap metal had had an impact, Mashatile said they needed to review the effectiveness of the ban.

What the government sought was to minimise the destruction of infrastructure.

He said those who destroy infrastructure take these parts out of the country. But the government would have to take measures to “completely deal with this issue”.

Mashatile said the Cabinet had met recently when this matter was on the table for discussion.

The vandalism and damage to the public infrastructure could continue.

“Indeed, the ban was made to ensure that this crime does not continue unabated. To the extent that there are weaknesses, we are looking at the review where the gaps are. It is important to ensure that there is no unabated theft of scrap metals,” said Mashatile.

He said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure had set up a team to investigate cases of vandalism of infrastructure. Since January this year 50 people have been arrested for these crimes.

However, government wanted to intensify its policing mechanisms to prevent the damage of the infrastructure. They would consider the use of drones because of the vast network of infrastructure in the country.

These measures would help reduce cases of this nature as the police and other law enforcement agencies tried to arrest the syndicates.

Mashatile said they needed to act before the vandalism happened and that could only happen through use of technology, intelligence-driven operations and other measures.

[email protected]

Current Affairs