Copper theft is 'economic sabotage' - TechCentral

Copper theft is ‘economic sabotage’

Telkom spent more than R200m repairing and replacing damaged and stolen copper-cable infrastructure in the financial year ended 31 March 2012. It spent a further R150m on security to protect the network from opportunistic thieves and criminal syndicates.

The company says in its 2012 group integrated annual report that highly organised syndicates direct individuals to steal network components in a targeted manner and this should be construed as “economic sabotage”.

Beyond the direct costs, Telkom says the disruption caused by the theft of its infrastructure invariably leads to a loss of call and rental income. “All of these factors, in addition to the disruptive effect on Telkom’s management capacity, result in the real, holistic cost of copper-cable theft to Telkom being many times the value of the stolen copper.”

It says the ultimate cost extends far beyond Telkom and affects “every aspect of our country’s society and economy”.

“The theft of copper cable affects the ability of businesses to operate and to compete both nationally and internationally, thus creating a direct impediment to our country’s economic growth,” the company says in its annual report.

Because of this, it argues that at a national level public policy should reflect the threat that copper theft poses.

Telkom says in its report that the key driver of copper-cable theft is the rising demand for the metal as a result of escalating copper prices. Between the 2006 financial year and early 2012, the price of copper has risen from US$5 000/ton to $8 100.

“Some of the theft is opportunistic in nature, driven largely by poverty. However, a large and growing percentage of this theft is conducted under the guidance of crime syndicates,” Telkom says.

The company accuses “unscrupulous” scrap-metal merchants, which often apply a “range of measures” to render the stolen material unidentifiable in terms of its original owner. Virtually all of the stolen copper is exported, it adds.

“Together with other affected entities, Telkom has long cooperated with the SA Police Service,” it says. “The focus of this partnership is to assist with the effective enforcement of the newly introduced Second Hands Goods Act.”

This act, which came into force in mid-2012, requires traders in second-hand goods, including scrap-metal dealers, to be registered and to ensure that goods purchased are not stolen.

Registered dealers are required to operate within the regulations governing the handling of all second-hand goods on their premises or within their trading activities,” Telkom says.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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