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Gordhan throws gauntlet to cops, NPA to stem copper theft

Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Published Jul 24, 2023


Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has thrown the gauntlet of restoring order in state-owned utilities, including Transnet, Eskom and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), saying arrests were not enough and that more successful prosecutions needed to be seen.

Speaking on Radio 702 on Monday morning, Gordhan, whose performance was exposed over the weekend by African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula to move fast or be moved in the restoration of state-owned enterprises, said the DPE was doing all it could to ensure sufficient expertise in the state utilities.

Gordhan said in the interview that thousands of kilometres of copper cable were lost every week and that recent efforts to mobilise security clusters to monitor the criminal activities were bearing fruit but that the prosecution authorities needed to come harder on the suspects to secure convictions.

‘’Police need to deal with cable theft. We need to find more money to replace and increase the equipment we have. In the past year, we have sat down with the Minerals Council and law enforcement to look at how we could handle the task of cable theft. Having cases is one thing. We are increasing the chance of people getting caught but getting them jailed is another issue,’’ Gordhan said.

He said the DPE was focused on turning around the fortunes of all state-owned enterprises, including Prasa, Denel and South African Airways (SAA), by appointing qualified and competent people in the boards of the SOEs.

‘’When you are trying to re-patch together a broken organisation, it takes time, it takes effort, and it takes a lot of courage. That Sangcu (new Transnet Chairperson) is pursuing his PhD is an even bigger advantage. Transnet has its issues; there are not enough operational locomotives, not enough facilities at the ports. We share the impatience the country has, and we are instilling a sense of urgency,’’ Gordhan said.

Mbalula, in a speech at the ANC Women's League elective conference in Johannesburg on Saturday, told delegates that the party expected performance from its deployees to the government.

He singled out Gordhan and said he had to work quickly to fix the problems faced by the country's rail system, saying if he did not do so, he would be removed.

Mbalula, a former transport minister, blamed the high number of road deaths on the increased presence of trucks carrying goods that could otherwise be transported by rail.

From poor maintenance to attacks on the network, a number of factors have put our logistics sector under strain. According to the Minerals Council, there have been R50 billion in missed revenues this year.

Gordhan said that there have been a number of engagements with the minerals council at various levels, but the problems do not just lie in a single quarter.