Johannesburg, 02 September 2022 – The Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure (ESCI) Forum, led by the Group CEOs of Eskom, PRASA, Telkom and Transnet, today hosted a high-profile roundtable with key stakeholders to find solutions and discuss progress in tackling the challenge of theft and vandalism of economic infrastructure.
The economic toll, experienced across the country, has reached the point where drastic measures are required, from a policy execution and coordination perspective.
“The country’s critical infrastructure is a platform for economic activities and catalyst for growth that needs to be always protected by all. Telkom Group is characterised by high levels of crimes of cable theft/sabotage, battery theft and vandalism of infrastructure. These crimes hamper the provision of basic essential services to industries and communities,” said Serame Taukobong, Telkom Group Chief Executive Officer. Taukobong said telecommunication services are essential for daily business electronic transactions, educational and entertainment internet and streaming which are essential for population skills enhancement. “Therefore, it is incumbent upon every citizen to protect and report infrastructure crimes.”
Copper cable theft; electricity poles and battery theft from telecoms base stations; electricity theft and illegal connections; vandalism and malicious damage to property; extortion and bribery; hostage taking; burning of train coaches and theft of rail lines – have all increased over the recent while. Metals theft impacts on power supply, leaves trains unable to operate and causes massive damage to public facilities throughout the country. The economic damage of copper theft alone has been estimated at more than R45 billion annually.
“Theft and vandalism of essential economic infrastructure have dealt PRASA and the country’s economy a heavy blow that cannot be quantified. We are confident that through the Forum we can indeed turn the tide,” says Hishaam Emeran, PRASA Acting Group Chief Executive Officer.
Given the intensity and frequency of these incidents, the industry has come to address this massive issue with a focused and coordinated response. Since the establishment of the Forum in 2020, some progress has been realised that includes a specialised multi-disciplinary unit to address economic sabotage, extortion at construction sites, and vandalism of infrastructure. The South African Police Service set up a Task Team on Cable Theft and Damage to Essential Infrastructure. Cabinet also approved the public consultation process for proposals to restrict the trade of illegally obtained scrap and processed metals.
“Electricity infrastructure is central to the country’s economy, growth and development, therefore every citizen, every business and the whole-of-state has a role to play in stopping the devastation, sabotage and destruction of critical infrastructure,” says André de Ruyter, Eskom Group Chief Executive. “Eskom is encouraged by the support it is receiving from the security and law enforcement agencies, including the commitment by the National Prosecuting Authority to commence the prosecution of the many serious crimes that have negatively affected Eskom.”
The Forum has developed a progressive user-friendly app that aims to create awareness on the issue of economic sabotage of critical infrastructure whilst enabling impacted industry players to benefit from insights that are more current.
“Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has experienced an exponential increase in incidents over the last five years, which has resulted in increased tonnage and revenue losses, and increased repair costs. Over 1500km of cable has been stolen (a 1 096% increase in the length of cable stolen) in the past five years, with a net financial impact of R4.1 billion. We are confident that the coordinated and focused response by the ESCI Forum will yield positive results,” says Portia Derby, Transnet Group Chief Executive.
The public will be able to see an updated view of the incident trends, the shared industry losses as a result of economic sabotage of critical infrastructure, and a heatmap view of the hotspots of crime, while industry stakeholders will be able to log in and securely interact with the analytics at a more granular level and in a more interactive way. The application is updated through a robust data process that provides regular updates on incidents.
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