South Africa’s Ignominious New Statistic: The Theft Index

Geoffrey York, Globe and Mail, October 7, 2011

Bombardier Inc.’s high-tech rail project in South Africa has been a popular success, but it has sometimes been ground to a halt by a mundane problem: the theft of copper cables from its railway lines.

The high-speed Gautrain, in which Bombardier is a leading partner, is a $3.7-billion 80-kilometre project to link Johannesburg and Pretoria and the country’s main international airport. It is carrying 28,000 passengers a day, and aims to carry more than 100,000 passengers at its peak, linking the two cities in as little as 26 minutes.

Yet since the opening of its Pretoria link in July, this technological marvel has been shut down twice by thieves who stole cables along its rail lines. The shutdown has highlighted the growing problem of cable theft, which can cause havoc to electricity supplies, freight railways, telephone connections and other crucial components of the national infrastructure.

The theft of copper cables, usually for resale to scrap dealers, has become a global epidemic, fuelled by the fast-growing demand of new markets such as China. But the problem is greatest in developing countries such as South Africa, where crime rates are high, law enforcement is weak, and impoverished people can easily turn to crime.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has even created a monthly report–the “Copper Theft Barometer”–to measure the destructive impact of cable theft on the South African economy.

Its latest report says the barometer was at 14.9 in August. This means that the total losses due to cable theft were nearly 15 million rand (nearly $2-million) in August alone. The report also found that copper exports by South African waste and scrap dealers are steadily climbing, reaching about $50-million in July.

Bombardier might be the most embarrassed victim of the cable thieves, but it is certainly not the biggest victim. South Africa’s national railway system is affected up to five times a day by cable thefts. Entire neighborhoods of Johannesburg are routinely left in darkness because of cable thefts.

Now the government is getting serious about the problem. It is planning new laws to classify cable theft as a serious economic crime, or sabotage. This would allow the authorities to imprison the cable thieves for 15 years or even life.

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  • sbuffalonative

    “The shutdown has highlighted the growing problem of cable theft”

    That’s one way of framing the problem.

  • Question Diversity

    This is indicative of the death of a civilization. Much of the Roman architecture was looted for its stone and building materials in the centuries after the fall of the Western empire. The New Kingdom Egyptian Pharaohs’ tomb treasures were looted as the New Kingdom was dying.

  • madison grant

    A company named Bombardier invested almost $4 billion in the sinking ship known as South Africa?

    Guess they never heard of Zimbabwe…

  • Anonymous

    The cultural rot is multi-dimensional: When in a nearby State the rest stops along a major interstate were vandalized so often so completely that they were just boarded up—someone offered to lease them to be run on a profit-making basis. It worked wonders and wonder number one was that redundant safety-proofed video cameras ran everywhere except the zipper areas of the rest rooms–24x7x365. But in schools and state parks, etc, mention of video 24x7x365 is tantamount to an act of indecent exposure: Public employees will not be subjected to video documentation of their too late arrivals and too early departures or their meanderings while on the job. At least cable thieves seem willing to work at their crimes.

  • Anonymous

    But the problem is greatest in developing countries such as South Africa,

    What?

    I remember that SA was a rich, thriving and first world country. So now it is developing. Developing into what?

    Remember, the first heart transplant happened in South Africa.

  • EW

    Problem of South Afria only?

    Here in Czechia Gypsies steal cables, sewer tops and anything metallic from the streets. Sometimes they steal even optical cables of no use for them, leaving whole neighborhoods without internet access. Copper rain gutters, especially those from renovated historical buildings, are their next target. Heck – Gypsies steal even those zinc-covered iron ones and sometimes even the plastic ones.

    There’s even a joke – how do you call people, who have plastics rain gutters fitted on their new house? The answer is “racists”…

  • June Warren

    The same thing happens every day in places such as Detroit, East St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham, etc. Blacks rip out copper pipes, wiring, aluminum siding and gutters They have even destroyed $10,000 air conditioning units just to get $5 worth of copper.

    Years ago in Detroit they were even cutting off the fingers of people killed in an airplane crash to steal rings.

  • Bantu Education

    I normally check my facts but in this case I wont bother but I’ll wager that “Bombardier” is a BEE (Black Economic Extortion) company promoted by the ANC (Afro-Nazi Criminals), funded by banks (themselves with a significant BEE “shareholding”) who are leaned-on to lend money to such scam organisations, which are all chaired by get-filthy-rich-quick black politically-connected fat-cat extortionists who emply terrified of losing their jobs whites (their intellectual slaves) do all the brainwork and heavy-lifting.

    From the outset it was obvious to any thinking person that Gautrain was an ego-trip at best – the worlds first “black-built” super-train – a scam at worst, that would only ever make money for the ANC and their BEE collaborators in crime.

  • Anonymous

    “Bombardier might be the most embarrassed victim of the cable thieves, but it is certainly not the biggest victim.”

    Why on earth should the VICTIM of a robbery feel “embarrassed” about ANYTHING? The only thing Bombardier might have to be embarrassed about is that they swallowed the liberal propaganda that doing business in South Africa would be just like doing business in their native Quebec. Sorry, Jean-Jacques, but you’ve been what we call, en anglais, “hoodwinked.” Hoodwinked by the dream that, in a land full of 70 IQ natives with sticky fingers, you won’t need 24/7 surveillance on EVERY SQUARE INCH of that $3.7-billion investment of yours. Maybe your company should have stuck to building snowmobiles and subway cars and just given a dismissive “non” to ventures in the Dark Continent.

    The only people in this story who should be embarrassed, are the thieving Bantu who can’t keep their bony black fingers off anything not nailed down — even if it means thwarting the success of their own new “postracial rainbow nation.” Now THAT’S something to be embarrassed about!

  • Anonymous

    Anon #9: “Postracial Rainbow Nation”? When was the last time anyone saw a rainbow with the colors black or brown in it?

    Should I tell you where I see those colors most often?

  • Istvan

    Doesn’t Bombadier make aircraft, railroad and trolley car bodies? They bought out Budd of Philadelphia if I recall correctly. What in heaven’s name does the new South Africa need with new railroad car bodies? Isn’t their infrastructure returning to nature?

  • Anonymous

    One of the scandals recently unearthed (and just as quickly re-buried)here in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area is the robbing and desecration of graves for jewelry, casket handles, and military plaques. I guess it’s a lot more rewarding to simply excavate a fortune six feet underground in the dark of night than it is to make Happy Meals at the local McDonald’s.

    We are truly heading toward the Apocalypse.

  • (AWG) Average White Guy

    A friend installed a steel door to keep copper thieves out of his vacant rental home.

    They stole the door.

  • Laager

    @ Bantu Education

    From the Bombardier website:

    Industry-Leading Transportation Manufacturer

    Bombardier is a global transportation company with 69 production and engineering sites in 23 countries, and a worldwide network of service centres. We operate two industry-leading businesses:

    Aerospace

    Rail transportation

    Our 65,400 employees design, manufacture, sell and support the widest range of world-class products in these two sectors. This includes commercial and business jets, as well as rail transportation equipment, systems and services.

    Bombardier is headquartered in Montréal, Canada, and its shares (BBD) are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In the fiscal year ended January 31, 2011, we posted revenues of $17.7 billion US.

    Bombardier Aerospace

    With more than 30,300 employees and well-positioned in global markets, Bombardier Aerospace is a world leader in the design, manufacture and support of innovative aviation products for the business,commercial, specialized and amphibious aircraft markets. We have the most comprehensive aircraft portfolio and we hold the number one position in business and regional aircraft. Our high-performance aircraft and services set the standard of excellence in several markets, including:

    Business aircraft – Learjet, Challenger and Global aircraft families

    Commercial aircraft – new CSeries program, CRJ Series and Q-Series aircraft families

    Amphibious aircraft – Bombardier 415 and Bombardier 415 MP aircraft

    Jet travel solutions – Flexjet

    South Africa has a company called Union Carriage Works which has been manufacturing rolling stock and some locomotives for South African Railways for the last half century

    However, the Gautrain is in the league of top (high speed?) commuter trains as seen in Europe. I do not think that UCW has the expertise / manufacturing capability to tool up and deliver on this project.

    You are probably correct in speculating that delivering Gautrain has opened the door wide for innovative ANC/AA/BEE procurement solutions.

    On recent visits to SA I have noticed that the traffic congestion on the road networks between Johannesburg and Pretoria is as bad as parts of London UK. There is no doubt a need for a high speed train commuter service in the area.

    However, there are two major challenges to be overcome:

    (1) wean South Africans out of their motor cars and get them to use public transport – in probably the most dangerous region in the country

    (2) the new crime opportunities that now present themselves

    From time to time London Underground suffers from “steaming”

    A gang of (invariably black) thugs enters the train at one end and works it’s way through the train swiftly terrorising and robbing passengers of their valuables.

    As soon as the job is done they get off at up coming stations and disperse into the crowd.

    I think it is just a matter of time before we start reading about muggings on this train service and at its stations

  • South African

    http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71654?oid=242040&sn=Detail&pid=71616

    Current cost R27 billion. Budgeted cost during the feasibility study : R7 billion.

    A study on the traffic congestion between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and that the train will not relieve congestion:

    http://researchspace.csir.co.za/dspace/bitstream/10204/1317/1/Chakwizira_2007.pdf

    Does Bombela loose out? I think the contracts are of such a nature that checks and balances have been build in so as to protect foreign investors, and not us, the tax paying citizen. I have the firm suspicion that it is a milk cow project with basically two beneficiaries: the foreign forms and the black empowerment firms. This is not the only project foreign firms cash in and we pay and guarantee. There is the Platinum highway (toll road) by a Spanish form. Our highways are to be tolled every 10 kilometers, again a foreign firm (have to google a bit to refresh my memory).

    So why is there so much traffic between Joburg and Pretoria (for only an about 50 kilometer stretch)? It was not so in the past. Why is there no industrial development in Pretoria? What happened that all these traffic relief measures became necessary? Why all of a sudden so many cars on the road while the white population growth is pretty constant and even shrinking, emigrating and loosing jobs?

    Nowhere do you get any studies on this.

  • Californian

    The same thing happens every day in places such as Detroit, East St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham, etc.

    Another symptom of American turning into a third world country…

  • ATBOTL

    “The cultural rot is multi-dimensional: When in a nearby State the rest stops along a major interstate were vandalized so often so completely that they were just boarded up—-someone offered to lease them to be run on a profit-making basis. It worked wonders and wonder number one was that redundant safety-proofed video cameras ran everywhere except the zipper areas of the rest rooms—24x7x365. But in schools and state parks, etc, mention of video 24x7x365 is tantamount to an act of indecent exposure: Public employees will not be subjected to video documentation of their too late arrivals and too early departures or their meanderings while on the job. At least cable thieves seem willing to work at their crimes.”

    What are you babbling about? This has nothing to do with public employees. Do you think that more capitalism will make Africans civilized?

  • AnalogMan

    Now the government is getting serious about the problem. It is planning new laws …

    Typical Babuntu solution. Can’t enforce the existing laws, so make another law, that’ll fix it.

  • Anonymous

    “Here in Czechia Gypsies steal cables, sewer tops and anything metallic from the streets.”

    Same in Hungary. In their own government housing they roll up the carpets and lino, chip out the bathroom tiles and remove all the kitchen and bathroom fixtures, windows and frames, doors and even stairs.