Cable thieves were getting more organised and dangerous, costing state enterprises millions in damages said Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha, who on Thursday asked Parliament to pass the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill.
The bill, which was fast-tracked through Parliament, sought to introduce harsher sentences for destruction of essential infrastructure and more stringent bail conditions and applications for perpetrators.
Campaigning for the bill to be passed, Masutha said companies such as Eskom, Telkom and Transnet were spending millions replacing infrastructure, which negatively affected service delivery.
“Stolen cables must be replaced, even before essential maintenance can be done. This problem is exacerbated because these offences are becoming increasingly organised and are carried out by armed, dangerous and syndicated criminals.”
Masutha said the loss to the economy was between R5bn and R7bn a year.
“The public sector and business cannot operate fully without communication if cables are stolen, for example,” he said.
The minister used transport delays when cables are stolen from train tracks as an example.
Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffreys said he was glad the proposal was largely supported, as it affected all communities.
The bill has now been sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. News24