Underground cables
The impact of cable theft on the South African economy and the positive force of Cape Town’s Metals Theft Unit.

Cable theft in South Africa has become so rife that the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) periodically issues a Copper Theft Barometer that monitors the effects of this type of crime in South Africa. However, cable and copper theft is not a South African problem alone as the global utility sector is under siege of infrastructure crimes, writes Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl.

The FBI’s report ‘Copper Thefts Threaten U.S. Critical Infrastructure’ states: “Copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical substations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes for lucrative profits.

The theft of copper from these targets disrupts the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, and security and emergency services and presents a risk to both public safety and national security.” Furthermore, cable and copper theft knows no regional or urban boundaries, occurring in suburbs, rural communities and informal settlements, as well as in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

The impact on the South African Economy

In South Africa, copper theft costs the country’s economy an estimated ZAR5 billion a year. The SACCI barometer, last issued in March 2015, reported a marginally favourable decrease in the copper cable theft level from ZAR12.9 million in January to ZAR12.7 million in February. However, this figure is …

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