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BY BEKEZELA PHAKATHI: Published: 2012/05/22 06:33:43 AM
The Second-Hand Goods Act is meant to strengthen the hand of law enforcement agencies in dealing with cable theft
Authorities battling copper cable theft received a new weapon in their arsenal yesterday when the Second-Hand Goods Act was launched.
The legislation is meant to strengthen the hand of law enforcement agencies in dealing with cable theft, which has disrupted essential services provided by Eskom and Telkom and made SA one of the world’s leading exporters of copper to countries such as China and India.
The act criminalises the possession of nonferrous cable with a burnt cover, allowing for imprisonment of up to 10 years.
Business Against Crime SA welcomed Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa ’s announcement of the enactment of the Second-Hand Goods Act.
“This critical piece of legislation will effectively lead to a clean-up of the second-hand goods industry — a goal towards which Business Against Crime SA has worked tirelessly in partnership with the South African Police Service and industry stakeholders since 1999,” Graham Wright, the organisation’s CEO, said.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said its monthly barometer of copper theft showed that the crime had risen in March to its highest level since early 2010, leading to a loss of R34,7m.
The chamber’s chief operating officer, Peggy Drodskie, said the chamber had long been calling for the implementation of the Second-Hand Goods Act.
“We believe it is a step in the right direction and it has to be appropriately implemented,” she said. Legislation, on its own, was not enough of a weapon in the fight against copper cable theft, Ms Drodskie warned.
“There needs to be proper implementation. Dealers who deal with scrap metal should be well policed … the problem is there are syndicates behind the theft, and we need to catch the leaders of these syndicates,” she said.
The Hawks yesterday arrested two men in Chloorkop, northeast of Johannesburg, for possession of stolen copper cables and railway sleepers. A third man was arrested for possession of power cables, after he approached a scrap dealership while the Hawks were on the property.
They also found springs from a Transnet facility in a truck outside the dealership, apparently prepared for export to China.
Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela said the fight against copper cable theft had been “difficult” largely because of “loopholes”.
“At the moment, people can trade (in second-hand goods) without even having permits. We hope the act will close that loophole,” Col Polela said.
The act provides the police with a regulatory framework through which second-hand goods dealers and pawnshop owners can be put out of business if found to be selling stolen goods.
Industry bodies will have to be accredited, allowing second-hand goods dealers’ associations to support the police in monitoring compliance.
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