Taking the process of combating Copper theft to the next level

Over the years we have had many ups and downs with regard to finding the right answers in the ongoing battle against persons who like to enrich themselves by stealing Service Providers networks and infrastructure.

Some initiatives have worked, while the implementation of others have been addressed year after year without any sign of success. Some enthusiastic newcomer to the game would every now and then dust off old and buried issues and there would be a whole crusade to implement it as soon as possible. However, it would not take long for those involved to realize that there is no real solution at this stage of the game and the idea would be put to rest once again. As reported in previous articles in this bulletin, it is this sad state of affairs that creates frustration between the ranks of the Law Enforcement officials in the country, who just cannot seem to get on top of this problem.

However, this December saw two very important non ferrous combating initiatives taking place on consecutive days and we are happy to report that things are seemingly coming together and it is anticipated that we could see a huge effort against non ferrous thefts early in the new year.      

The first initiative was the second meeting of the “new look” National Non Ferrous Crime Combating Committee (NFCCC), while the second initiative was the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACCI) Strategic workgroup meeting. Some of the role-players were invited to attend both sessions and it was anticipated that there could be a repetition of the abovementioned phenomena to discuss old issues once again and maybe also a clash of initiatives. SARPA was represented and took part in the discussions on behalf of their members at both these forums.

However, we were in for a big surprise when the representatives from the different organisations decided to “bury the hatchet” and tried to find real answers to current issues. Those present were encouraged to find ways of working together and bring back groups to the NFCCC meetings, that were excluded in the past due to various reasons. This was a real eye opener and seemingly indicates the start of a whole new era in the battle against non-ferrous thefts. What is significant is the fact that if we would be able to sustain this positive effort in the future, we would certainly be able to effectively minimize this threat within the next two years.

Since the coordination process with regard to non-ferrous thefts has been taken over by the SAPS Visible Policing Unit from the Organized Crime Unit, this was the first meeting where General Luke, the National Head of the Visible Policing Unit chaired the meeting. He subsequently introduced the new SAPS Strategy and gave role players on both sides of the spectrum (namely Law enforcement and Service Providers) the chance to give feedback regarding the current situation and actions planned to combat such threats.

SAPS representatives gave feedback regarding incidents in the different provinces, actions taken, arrests, training initiatives, import/export assessments, awareness programs, internal instructions, planned conference, storage of exhibits and other action plans. Service provider representatives gave feedback regarding incidents, hotspots and preventative actions.

The issue regarding the different initiatives that is taking place at the same time was successfully addressed, when it was unanimously agreed to exchange representatives between the different forums.

Another issue that has been creating lots of confusion, is the long awaited introduction of the new Second Hand Goods Act (Act 6 of 2009) It was therefore no surprise when we learned that the full implementation date of the Act has been moved from the anticipated 1 January commencement date, to April 2012.

In the meantime, the SAPS Law division has decided to “release” some specific Sections of the Law so long in two Proclamations, in order to address the most important issues right now namely: -

1) Section 16-20 - That deals with the accreditation of the Metal Merchant
2) Section 22  - Which stipulates that it is a criminal offence to supply false
    information relating to the dealings in second goods.
3) Section 25 (b) - Which stipulates that it is a criminal offence to buy or be in
    possession of “burnt copper” (where the cover has been burnt off)
4) Section 25 (c) - Which stipulates that sentences of up to 10 years could be given to
    persons who contravenes Section 25 (b)

This initiative will most definitely “put the cat among the chickens”, as scrap yards will have to clean up their act very fast in this regard, otherwise they will be in big trouble. The sentences specified in the new law will perhaps make people think twice before they get involved in such criminal acts. This is the best news we have heard for some time and is definitely an early Christmas present for crime fighters in South Africa. It is however anticipated that we will not be experiencing the full impact of this new initiative immediately, as most of the larger Scrap yards close down during the festive season and a traditional decrease in thefts are usually experienced during this period.

On the operational side of the fight against what we in SARPA call “Utility metal thefts”, we are happy to report that everything is going according to plan. This issue has been included into our new Strategy and has been earmarked as one of our main Projects for 2012.  SARPA in conjunction with SAPS and BAC are also in the process of reestablishing the Limpopo and Freestate NFCCC forums.  The other forums are performing well with the Western Cape, Maphumalanga and Eastern Cape Forums leading the way. SARPA members are positively contributing in these forums on an ongoing basis. However, we would like to make a serious call to all Municipalities to send representatives to these forums, as it is necessary to join hands with SAPS and other role players and form a “united front” against copper thieves.

On a more strategic note, the SACCI workgroup focused on issues that could assist the operational forces to perform their tasks more effectively.
The main discussions included issues like the conducting of road shows, identification of a “Political Champion”, updating of the SAPS Data Management systems, assisting in the SAPS training processes and the SACCI Copper Theft Barometer.

It was therefore decided to: -

1)    Approach the Minister of Public Enterprises to be the Champion
2)    Ask organizations like Eskom, Telkom and Transnet to integrate their road shows with the other role players or to support their initiatives as well.
3)    Make available venues and supporting resources to SAPS, in order to ensure that the training can be conducted as soon and effectively as possible.
4)    To not include Municipal statistics in the Barometer (because information obtained from these entities were not reliable at this stage)
5)    To approach a University to conduct a short study regarding the impact of non ferrous theft on the South African economy, with the main goal of compiling a report that could be utilized in court by “Expert witnesses” to obtain harsher sentences.

SARPA has in the meantime handed over all the training material that we have in the past developed “in-house” to the SAPS Legal Department. We have been utilizing it up to now to train policeman, judicial staff members and Municipal officials. This forms part of our effort to assist SAPS to complete their training manual that will be utilized to train Law Enforcement Officials throughout the country early in the New Year. The Technical Advisor has been nominated to take part in the SAPS development team and SARPA members countrywide will be asked to take part in the training sessions, to assist in teaching the SAPS members how to identify Municipal property.

With all these positive strategies and planned interactions envisaged for the new year, we cannot be wrong if we feel that 2012 will be the year that the copper thieves and those who buy the stolen items will meet their match once and for all.  

By Rens Bindeman
SARPA Technical Advisor


SARPA’s new strategy produces excellent results

SARPA has been very active this year with many different and exciting developments on all fronts. The new President Mr. William Olivier has committed the Association to a strategy of enhancing its image locally and abroad, taking a leading role in the country with regard to the combating of “copper theft”, training of Utility and Law enforcement personnel across the spectrum of Revenue Protection and Utility metal thefts as well as assisting ailing municipalities through the SARPA Revenue Recovery Strategy.

The very challenging Revenue Recovery project became an instant winner when the test exercise at Drakenstein Municipality and a pilot exercise at Kouga Municipality both proved to be huge successes. During these projects the development of the SARPA Revenue Recovery Toolkit was completed and the aim is now to find partners to sponsors future projects. Discussions with DBSA have been ongoing in this regard. Another highlight is the fact that the Department of Water Affairs has joined forces with SARPA in this very important exercise.  Several Municipalities have already indicated an interest to have such projects conducted in their areas of responsibility and SARPA is currently in the process of finalising the final roll out of the plan.

Copper theft on the other hand has once again become a huge issue in South Africa and SARPA has been identified as one of the main role players to assist in compiling a National Strategy. SARPA is currently involved in providing guidance and training on provincial and national level and also plays a leading role in initiatives like the Non Ferrous Crime Combating Forum (NFCCC) and the SACCI Copper Theft Forum. SARPA is also leading the drive to reestablish the forums in Limpopo and Freestate provinces, as the old ones have stopped functioning with the transfer of coordination process from the SAPS Organized Crime Division to Visible Policing.

All of the seven SARPA branches in the country are currently functioning very well.  The Mapumulanga branch is once again active and a new branch is also planned in Namibia in March 2012. A big effort is currently underway to ensure that representatives from Municipal Water and Financial Directorates also attend the meetings.  The yearly Convention in Polokwane was a huge success and it was noted that all the speakers presented solutions rather than pointing out problems.

The SARPA / NRS initiative to review several NRS standards and to develop a new guideline for the combating of Utility Metal thefts (NRS 101) has been completed in a very short period. This has resulted in SABS awarding the Technical Advisor Mr. Rens Bindeman with an award as a token of gratitude for the effort that went into achieving this goal.

All these efforts has seen SARPA representatives been invited to present workshops and papers at conferences in Central and Southern America, as well as in several other African countries.

Overall SARPA has experienced a very prosperous 2011 and we look forward to increasing the effort in 2012.

By Rens Bindeman
SARPA Technical Advisor


SARPA acknowledged for contributing to NRS process

For the past few years SARPA has focused on reviewing all the NRS guidelines that deals with revenue loss issues on a regular basis, rather than waiting for the due dates. However, this strategy resulted in a huge workload, when several documents had to be reviewed in 2011. This included NRS 055, NRS 096, NRS059 and NRS080.

SARPA at the same time initiated a new guideline to focus on the controversial issue of “copper theft”. This document NRS 101- Combating of Utility Metal theft was completed within a very short period of time. This has resulted in Eskom nominating the SARPA Technical Advisor Mr. Rens Bindeman for the “2011 Eskom NRS award in Association with SABS for exceptional contribution to standardization through participation in NRS work, at the SABS annual Gala dinner at Gallagher Estate on 14 October 2011.

SARPA wishes to thank all its members who have contributed in the past on the various NRS workgroups. This effort is very valuable for the industry and SARPA has singled it out as one of the major projects to focus on in the future.


Residents fuming after crackdown on illegal connections - How does SARPA deal with this?

“We don’t steal electricity. We’re taking it because our government has failed to deliver on its promises”, this is the general attitude of people living in the Kliptown area after illegal connections were removed from one of the informal settlements recently.

This kind of thinking is not confined to Kliptown alone as many citizens across the country feel the same way. This remains a huge challenge to Revenue Protection departments and for SARPA in particular. But during SARPA’s 2012 convention, we hope to meet some of these challenges.

The theme for this year’s convention is “Effective Revenue Recovery Solutions” and is hosted by Drakenstein Municipality on 12 & 13 July 2012.

Contact Marlindi at for more on the convention.


Important meeting dates to diarise

Meeting dates and venues are however subject to revision and we will attempt to ensure that any changes are included in this monthly e-Bulletin and on the SARPA website.

February 2012 

  • Branch meetings
    • Bushveld – 9 February 2012 [Mokopane]
    • Good Hope – 23 February 2012  [Vredendal]

March 2012 

  • Branch meetings
    • Namibia 7 March 2012 [Windhoek] N.B – registration of attendance requested by 16 December 2011.
    • KZN – 29 March 2012

April 2012 

  • Branch meeting
    • FS & NC – 12 April 2012

May 2012 

  • Branch meetings
    • Bushveld – 3 May 2012
    • Good Hope – 17 May 2012 [Wellington]

June 2012 

  • Branch meetings
    • KZN – 21 June 2012

July 2012 

  • 16th Annual SARPA Convention - 12 & 13 July 2012

August 2012 

  • Branch meetings
    • Bushveld – 2 August 2012
    • Good Hope – 16 August 2012 [Koeberg]
    • FS & NC – 23 August 2012

September 2012 

  • Nil

October 2012 

  • Nil

November 2012 

  • To be confirmed
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