Copper theft is 'terrorism'

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 18 Mar 2008

Copper cable theft is costing utilities Telkom, Eskom and Transnet Freight Rail billions in addition to ruining businesses and costing people their jobs. Inkatha Freedom Party MP Hennie Bekker wants this crime declared sabotage.

The MP has already tabled a Private Members' Bill to amend the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act of 2004. This will "provide for the extension of the definition of terrorist activities to also include activities aimed at the advancement of an economic objective" such as pure financial gain.

The effect of the amendment, if adopted by Parliament and signed into law by the president, would be that prosecutors could also charge cable thieves with terrorism. This is in addition to common law theft and the contravention of the new Second Hand Goods Bill that is also winding its way through the legislature.

Bekker says the latter Bill is not strict enough. He says the answers provided to questions he recently asked in the National Assembly show that more than R5 billion is being lost to the economy a year because of the activities of cable thieves.

"The seriousness of this situation forced me to introduce a private legislative proposal to declare cable theft a form of 'sabotage' and to make it an economic crime that threatens the national security of the republic," he says.

Reported cases of cable theft involving Telkom, Eskom and Transnet have ballooned 70% since 2005.

A memorandum attached to the Bill argues that "the present situation of regarding these increasing incidents of crime simply as the offence of 'common theft' longer serves as an adequate deterrent... and it is essential that it should also be defined as a terrorist activity".

Related stories:
Telkom copper losses escalate
Cable theft nails Telkom
Vegas hit by 'Izinyoka'
Copper market drives theft
Copper replacement goes green