DA takes the fight to protect public infrastructure to Parliament

Issued by Mat Cuthbert MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition
29 Aug 2022 in News

Please find attached a soundbite for Mat Cuthbert.

The DA will take the fight to protect public infrastructure to Parliament on the 1st of September in an urgent debate scheduled before the National Assembly.

The DA sponsored this debate in order to stem the tide against the rampant theft and vandalism of our public infrastructure.

It is estimated that the industrial-scale looting of our electrical, rail and telecommunications infrastructure costs the economy R187 billion a year.

In May of this year we released a document entitled “DA proposals on addressing public infrastructure theft and vandalism” in which we proposed a series of national, provincial and local government interventions needed to tackle this issue (see attached).

We have since met with a variety of stakeholders in the various municipalities where we govern, metal recycling industry, law enforcement as well as community organisations in order to share our plan.

Our “whole of society” approach has been welcomed by stakeholders as they too recognise that government alone cannot solve this crisis.

However, the sad reality is that despite assistance from certain pockets of excellence within the South African Police Service (SAPS) – government has failed to provide the necessary resources required.

Despite having the Second Hand Goods Act (2009) and Criminal Matters Amendment Act (2015) to empower law enforcement and the prosecuting authorities – these are rarely implemented.

It has largely fallen on the shoulders of DA governments and Community Policing Forums (CPF) to tackle this crisis by themselves.

In the Cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, some of the measures implemented by our governments to deal with this are:

  • Dedicated infrastructure protection budgets;
  • Specialised metro police units;
  • Private-public partnerships to secure facilities;
  • Reward hotlines and;
  • Community raids to identify cable thieves, disconnect illegal electrical supplies and to secure infrastructure

All of these measures are in line with the proposals we put forward in May of this year.

While the DA has been at the forefront of protecting our infrastructure the ANC led national government has been reactive.

The DA firmly believes that the actions of criminal syndicates and illicit dealers in scrap metals are tantamount to treason and they should be punished in the strongest possible way.

However, the proposed ban on scrap metal exports for 6 months by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, incorrectly diagnosis the problem and punishes legitimate metal recyclers and waste pickers.

Scrap metal exports have already by and large been limited over the past five years through the introduction of the Price Preference System (PPS) and Export Tax.

A previous three-month ban in 2020 did little to prevent the theft and vandalism of public infrastructure and only ended up in job losses and economic hardship for those in the downstream steel industry.

The DA is clear that this is a crime problem and not a trade policy issue.

However, Patel denies this fact and is more interested in protecting special interests in the upstream steel industry who stand to benefit from artificially low scrap prices which is use for feedstock in their mills.

Patel cannot be trusted to act in good faith and almost always has an ulterior motive in the policies he develops and implements. One just has to remember lack of empirical evidence used to back up the ban of roast chickens, open-toed shoes and crop tops.

On the 1st of September 2022 we will put forward credible, evidence-based solutions to fight this scourge and pressure government into reconsidering their approach.

The DA is the only party who takes this issue seriously and will continue to fight to protect our critical infrastructure.