|South African Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday declared a war on copper theft which "negatively impacts our economic growth."
"Cable theft should be viewed as a serious crime which has potential to negatively impact our economic growth as a country. We cannot allow that, hence our declaration of war on izinyoka (cable thieves)," he told lawmakers.
South Africa loses about 5 billion rands (about 568 million U. S. dollars) every year due to copper theft which often involved utility meters, cabling, wires, transformers, piping, bolts and manhole covers, according to the minister.
He blamed copper theft on the continuous disruption and degradation of services, including the rail transport system and power supply.
The minister said the war on copper theft not only targets thieves but also second-hand dealers.
The police service would intensify crime prevention patrols and engagements with role-players through formal structures to ensure that those who broke the law would face harsher convictions, Mthethwa said.
To curb rising copper theft, South Africa has made copper theft a serious offence, passing the Second-Hand Goods Act in May this year, which stipulates that any person buying stolen goods, including cables, is as guilty as the person who stole the goods. If an unscrupulous dealer is found guilty, a court could impose a prison sentence of up to 10 years.