Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) was being hit almost daily by cable theft when the number of incidents reached its peak in July, affecting operations at one of KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest mining concerns – but the company is now winning the war against thieves.
That’s the word from chief executive Mpho Mothoa, who urged businesses to work together in dealing more effectively with the “scourge” of cable theft. He was speaking at a business breakfast hosted |by the Zululand Chamber of Business in Richards Bay yesterday.
“Cable theft is a massive issue affecting several industries and hundreds of businesses across South Africa, and Richards Bay is no exception.
“We need closer collaboration among businesses, the community and government to face this issue head-on. Thankfully, our concerted effort to deal with cable theft at RBM has seen us go from having almost daily incidents in July, to operating almost three months without any incident,” he said.
“Cable theft not only affect s our operations, it affects everyone through issues like traffic lights not working and telecommunication problems. How did we deal with the issue at RBM?
“We knocked at every door at local and provincial government level. And we got fantastic support, especially from Economic Development MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu, who led the effort to sort out the situation,” said Mothoa.
While RBM had managed to deal with its problem, businesses needed to work together to address the issue in general.
“As business, we face similar challenges and therefore need greater collaboration in dealing with issues around crime and a disturbing increase in lawlessness.
“Our high unemployment rate is at the heart of the problem, but we still need to get a handle on crime. If we work together, we can deal with problems such as cable theft syndicates and ensure that there is no place for them to operate,” said Mothoa.
Charmayne Pountney, the head of the Zululand Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said cable theft affected everyone in Richards Bay.
“RBM was vulnerable because of the location of its operation in a rural area just outside Richards Bay, so I am glad they have managed to get a handle on it as a company. However, cable theft is a much bigger problem and does require business to collaborate to curb it. The cost to the economy runs into hundreds of millions,” she said.
Mothoa also said that the global multinational, Rio Tinto, which owns RBM, was committed to South Africa and its operations in Richards Bay.
He said that a better business environment would enable the company to be a greater investor.
“Our commitment to our investment in Richards Bay is reflected in that Rio Tinto effectively doubled its stake in RBM last year to 74 percent, after we acquired BHP Billiton’s 37-percent shareholding,” he said.
The remaining 26 percent shareholding in RBM is held by black economic empowerment equity partner Blue Horizon, which owns 24 percent, while the remaining 2-percent share belongs to RBM’s Employee Share Participation Trust.
RBM employs about 2 000 people in Zululand and claims it is the single largest taxpayer in KZN, having directly and indirectly contributed R5.8 billion to government revenues over the past five years.