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The illicit trade in copper has unleashed a staggering burden on South Africa’s economy. With global demand for copper reaching new heights, the prospect of criminal gangs relinquishing their activities seems increasingly unlikely. Despite a previous six-month moratorium on copper exports imposed by the government, no new regulations have emerged since its expiration. The Leader of the Freedom Front Plus, who sits on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police, highlights corruption and alarmingly low conviction rates as the primary stumbling blocks impeding South Africa’s resolve to combat the rampant copper theft problem. Groenewald says the disheartening truth is that criminals in South Africa currently enjoy an 80% chance of evading punishment for their crimes. Furthermore, Groenewald reflects on the recent mysterious passing of Tina Joemat-Petersson, the chairperson of the police portfolio committee, injecting further intrigue into this complex situation. – Linda van Tilburg
Excerpts from the interview
Only 18% of criminals in SA are convicted
When it comes to the police, I always say South Africa, in a certain sense, has very good laws, but the problem is the enforcing of those laws when it comes to the police. Let’s take copper theft. We talk about the illegal trade of copper in South Africa which is about R47 billion annually. Transnet, that is a problem and the main issue here is that we must talk about corruption because the law enforcement people whether it is the security guards at Transnet for hire, or whether it is the police services, not all of them, but the corruption is part of the big problem because they become part of the theft and the corruption. If you take all the crime in South Africa and you take the convictions, we talk of only about 18% of all criminals being convicted. In fact, that actually means that a criminal has more than 80% chance to get away with crime in South Africa. The crime situation is really bad in South Africa.
Still waiting for amendments to Scrap Metal Act, no copper mines are operational
When it comes to legislation, in the portfolio committee, we have the Scrap Metal Act, and we are supposed to amend it, and we’re still waiting for the amendments on that. And the problem is… You can amend it, but it comes down to the scrap dealers, they just don’t comply and the inspectors or the police who must ensure that they comply are becoming part of syndicates. The other problem is in South Africa, we don’t have any copper mines operational at this moment… If I can refer to the economy, if we look at the Saldana line and also the Richards Bay line, very important lines on the railroad for the export of coal specifically when it comes to China. At one stage, those companies exporting coal had to pay severe penalties because they could not deliver coal in time and in quantity because of the rails, not only because of copper theft, but even of the rails itself that had been stolen and taken to scrap yards. So, it is really bad as far as that is concerned.
On Tina Joematt-Peterson’s death – Police are investigating extortion
It is sad that she passed away. There are many questions, and they don’t give the answers. We still don’t know what the reason is for her death and that raises more questions. The controversy is about the fact that it was alleged that she was organising some extortion matter with the husband of the Public Protector, which is now the subject of a section 194 committee in Parliament…. So, the stakes are high and these are the allegations. The question is quite openly, did she commit suicide or what is the reason for her death? And I think they’re making a mistake to keep it secret.
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