The three main metros in Gauteng – Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni – are losing about R500 million a year, or more than R1 million a day, to cable theft. If the problem is not tackled, the entire Gauteng province will be plunged into an infrastructure crisis, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga has warned.
Speaking yesterday after meeting the Waltloo and Silverton Industrial Forum, Msimanga said: “I have met with the mayors of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni and between the three of us we have lost over a quarter of a billion rand in the past six months. This says we have a serious problem.
“We are now putting a report together on a plan of action as well as the challenges we are facing and we are going to engage with the presidency and the minister of intelligence, the police minister, the justice department, the premier and the relevant MMCs to say how do we work together, because we cannot go on like this.”
One of the big issues to be tackled will be the channels through which stolen cable – mainly copper – is sold and then exported.
Msimanga said it was worrying that South Africa had become one of the biggest copper exporters on the African continent, although it did not produce copper itself.
Poerie van Wyk, chairperson of the forum, said there are about 400 companies in the Waltloo and Silverton industrial areas. He said eight of them were on the brink of closing down in the next month because of repeated power outages, most of which are caused by cable theft.
“We do not want to go anywhere, some of the businesses have been in the area for over 30 years. We really want to stay here, help grow the economy, create jobs and put food on people’s tables,” he said.
Van Wyk said their biggest concern was security because no street lights were working. He also pointed to the lawlessness of some motorists and incomplete infrastructure as areas of concern.
The forum also complained that they had not been consulted or informed of the renovations to the bridge leading out of Mamelodi, illegal businesses mushrooming in the area, muggings and robberies.
Reggie Winkler asked the mayor to do something about the “lazy” metro police officers who stand on street corners and do nothing to uphold law and order.
Msimanga promised they would address all these issues in a newly formed partnership with the forum. He said some of the issues would be resolved immediately.
“Waltloo is one of the biggest industrial areas that we have in the city Tshwane and it is in our interest to make sure we communicate with them and we address some of their challenges,” he said. “My challenge is to make sure that we become a city that is moving forward and growing economically.”
The city has set aside over R600 million for industrial zones which includes areas around Babelegi, Ekhangala, Waltloo and smaller areas including Ga-Rankuwa and Centurion.
He said the electricity problem would soon be solved as the residential area Eersterust, which had been connected to the industrial substation, would soon be moved back to its own substation, which is almost completed.