Scrap metal ban: My business will not survive the six months

Riaan van den Berg, bottom right, and his crew face an uncertain future as a result of the new rules governing the sale and export of scrap metal. Picture: Supplied

Riaan van den Berg, bottom right, and his crew face an uncertain future as a result of the new rules governing the sale and export of scrap metal. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 9, 2022


Johannesburg – The new rules governing the sale and export of scrap metal have been received with much joy and enthusiasm.

Members of the public and state-owned companies welcomed the measures aimed at curbing the R47 billion losses suffered by the country due to vandalism and destruction of key infrastructure.

The Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition announced last week that it was imposing a six-month prohibition on the export of scrap copper and ferrous metals.

But not everybody was as happy though with the Metal Recyclers Association (MRA) holding the opinion that the new rules would not yield the desired results.

In a response to IOL on the new guidelines, they said: “We oppose the measures and have reservations that it might be extended beyond the envisaged six-month period. The MRA does not support the ban… We believe it is a blunt mechanism and will not achieve the desired objectives.”

Entrepreneurs involved in trading in scrap metal too believe that the new regulations will harm their business and that it would ultimately lead to the demise of their way of making a livelihood.

Riaan van den Berg and his crew salvaging metal. Picture: Supplied

Riaan van den Berg, who owns Imvelo Metals and Demolition in Ga-Rankuwa, some 37km northwest of Pretoria, has a bleak outlook on the future of his business as a result of the ban.

Van den Berg purchased his business a year ago in the hope that he could make a decent living from the trading of scrap metal.

“It was very profitable when I bought it, the first couple of months went well, but all of sudden the prices dropped when the government started their nonsense with the banning of scrap metal exports,” he said.

What the ban on exports means is that metal prices drop due to there being too much of the product in the local market, slashing the profit margins of entrepreneurs.

“The problem is that we don’t even break even… I’m at a loss, I mean for the current financial year I’m R300 000 in the red because I can’t cover my overheads. I need to still pay back for the business, and I still have to pay my employees.

I also have to pay security because you can’t have that kind of business without proper security,” Van den Berg said.

His inability to meet his financial obligations will lead to one inevitable result, the closure of his business and he does not see his business surviving the six-month ban,“ he said.

“I can try to do something else to make money but what of my employees who are working for a salary? What are they going to do?

“Where are they going to get jobs? You know that there are no jobs in South Africa…

“I’m going to have to let one of the guys go now, and maybe in a month or two I will have to let another guy go,” Van den Berg said.

He also feels that the lack of public sympathy for their plight is short-sighted. And that the scrap metal traders should not all be painted with the same brush, and be portrayed as all involved in criminal activities.

He said, “We don’t deal in illegal stuff. If I did deal in illegal stuff. I would not be showing a loss, I can promise you that. I don’t buy copper, I simply don’t buy it. My customers collect aluminium cans from dustbins and landfills… That is their bread and butter.”

Van den Berg said the solution to curbing the criminality related to scrap metal dealing is not to impose more laws, but to effectively enforce the existing laws as members are already highly regulated by the Second-Hand Goods Act of 2009.

He said law enforcement should concentrate on dealers who do not have the necessary permits.

Annie Gouws, an employee of Van den Berg, is faced with the stark reality that she may soon be unemployed.

“It means that we are going to lose our jobs. I have not been paid, because there is not enough money coming in. The company will have to let people go, and breadwinners of families will have to be let go,” Gouws lamented.

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