Stricter law to crack down on vandals
AN EKURHULENI clinic torched by enraged residents could result in the first set of prosecutions under the hefty new infrastructure law.
Under the new legislation, those who set the medical facility alight in Thokoza on Tuesday could face up to 30 years behind bars for damaging the state-owned property. Others, including companies and individuals caught damaging or in possession of water pipes, power cables or state infrastructure can also be fined up to R100 million.
The stringent action is in accordance with the updating of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Michael Masutha proclaimed last week. This latest act of arson was also met with condemnation by Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mondli Gungubele, who described it as “senseless thuggery”.
“I have noticed with concern that every time people are aggrieved about something, they all of a sudden turn to setting (sic) public facilities down.”
A high-level metro police task team has since been set up to find the perpetrators, who will be some of the first to be prosecuted under the new law.
As the law officially comes into effect, it will also make it harder for offenders of such crimes to get bail as it requires a court to decide on bail and not the police. The serious action taken by authorities is due to the financial implications and inconvenience ordinary citizens suffer due to the loss of essential services, and the increase of electricity tariffs they have to pay as a result of stolen cables.
Now those found guilty of such an offence will face a minimum sentence of three years for first offenders, five years for second offenders and seven years for third-time offenders. Cases involving organised crime get heavier minimum sentences, ranging from 15 years for first offenders to 25 years for repeaters.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe estimates that the country loses between R5 billion and R6bn every year due to cable theft. The electricity utility loses about R2bn of the entire amount and other state entities, including Telkom, Transnet and various municipalities, make up the total lost to cable theft.
Telkom spokesperson Leigh-Ann Francis said there were more than 6 000 incidents of cable theft across Telkom’s network reported in the past year.
The City of Johannesburg is also not holding back on fighting the scourge of vandalism and theft.
It has deployed a newly established specialist unit, consisting of 18 new Joburg Metro Police Department officials and 10 vehicles, to patrol the streets and find people stealing and vandalising manhole and stormwater covers, road signs and bridge handrails.