Police Minister Bheki Cele says they are clamping down on syndicates who are destroying infrastructure and they have been able to arrest 42 leaders of these cartels.
Cele said even the courts were beginning to take cases of infrastructure crimes seriously and were handing out heavy sentences.
One of the gang leaders in KwaZulu-Natal was given multiple life sentences for his crimes. Another one in Gauteng was given 15 years.
Cele said the damage to infrastructure was a serious problem and that was why they appointed a senior police officer to head the specialised unit dealing with infrastructure crimes.
He said the brigadier leading the infrastructure unit has set up units in 18 districts that have been identified as hotspots across the country.
Cele was answering oral questions in Parliament during question time to ministers and the Peace and Security cluster on Wednesday.
Head of the Hawks Godfrey Lebeya had earlier also briefed members of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on police where he said 42 people have been arrested for infrastructure damage.
Lebeya had told Parliament they were investigating 60 cases related to infrastructure damage and vandalism and 42 people were in court.
He said 46 of these cases were already in court. These cases were valued at R1.2 billion.
Most of the cases were in Gauteng and the Western Cape where the Hawks were busy investigating.
In Gauteng the unit was investigating 25 cases of infrastructure theft and in the Western Cape there were 24 cases under investigation.
Lebeya said the other cases under investigation by the Hawks were in the Eastern Cape (7) and Mpumalanga (4).
Lebeya said these cases of infrastructure theft and sabotage were costing the economy.
“When you look at all those 42 cases in court the amount involved is more than R1.2 billion,” said Lebeya.
Cele said this was a serious scourge across the country.
“I did say that the government is taking this matter seriously. Together with the SAPS and other agencies we have brought a highly decorated member of the SAPS who is running as we speak now 18 of the specialised units dealing with infrastructure issues in the Republic of South Africa. There are 18 units deployed in those identified districts. I have said out of those people (involved in infrastructure crimes) there are 42 people who are leading these cartels that have been arrested,” said Cele.
“We are happy to say even the courts are beginning to take the matter seriously,” said Cele.