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Jan 21, 2011

21/01/2011 (On-The-Air)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Caesar Molebatsi speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Molebatsi: From cars to cables, the microdot is the hot new crime fighter.

Creamer: The microdot technology is now on half a million cars in South African and already 6 300 cars have been recovered as a direct result of having these microdots. Now, they spray about 10 000 microdots on to the car in various places and each of these microdots has got a VIN, which is the vehicle identity number.

They can put 17 numbers on to a pinhead size of dot that you can’t even see with your naked eye. You need ultra-violet assistance plus magnifying assistance to see this number. These dots are spread far and wide across the car. They even blew up a car recently to find out if they could find the dots afterwards and they could still identify that car from these dots.

So, all of a sudden, from January 01, 2011, it was supposed to be law, but the amendments haven’t been done to the Acts. But, despite that, all new cars coming out are virtually microdotted. The only problem now is with the older cars, because that was the problem that they would scrape off the chassis number so that the police, even if they recovered the vehicle they wouldn’t know who’s vehicle it was.

There was no proof and so 12 000 cars are actually scrapped a year, just crushed, which loses about a billion rand a year. Now, with this microdot slowly coming, I’m sure there could be a change to that. Then cable theft, they are putting the microdot straight into the cables.

We know of the problems with our robots and telephones when the cables are stolen and they are now able to identify those and their owners. So a person in the scrapyard can’t just sit with cable and say he doesn’t know where it came from, we picked it up from the street or something. They will see that who the owner is and take the cable back to him. So, that sort of activity is going on.

Molebatsi: What has delayed the legislation around this?

Creamer: I think they haven’t gotten their admin in place quickly enough, because it seems the amendments haven’t been made to the act.

Molebatsi: How long has this sort of technology been around?

Creamer: Well, we have been talking about it now for two years and it’s spreading deeply in. We see jewellery, even, is being covered with microdots so that they can recover that. DVD sets and there is also a do it yourself microdot that you can buy and put in.

Molebatsi: A new move is afoot to have South Africa’s taxis manufactured locally. Why didn’t we think about this before?

Creamer: Can you imagine, the Quantum taxi that we see around, are all imported. We saw those popular Siyaya taxis around that were all locally manufactured. Then we had this taxi recap programme and there were some tentative news there and we ended up with the Quantum, which is imported vehicles.

The Department of Trade and Industry has gone along to Toyota and said “can’t we do something about this?” It won’t come under the APDP, which is the Automotive Production & Development Programme, a new programme is going to be set in place to make sure that we can manufacture these taxis locally.

But, of course, Toyota is the dominant figure, but Volkswagen is looking at also coming in with a half-tonner. So perhaps there will be some sort of competitive juices, but we’ve noted that Toyota has dominated this for a long time.

Molebatsi: Would that then just be an extension of the current business or will they actually bring in new players and therefore spread if you will the economic cake around a little bit more.

Creamer: The last time they tried to bring in new players it was an abject failure and Toyota just marched ahead, particularly with the Siyaya, until 2007. Now they are still the most visible company around with the Quantum.

Molebatsi: There are now only six months to go before the Gautrain projects takes its final lap.

Creamer: It was supposed to be three months, we were supposed to have it March 27 and they couldn’t make it, now it is the end of June. The two pieces that have got to be put in place now, because we already have the stretch from OR Tambo Airport to Sandton and already more then a million commuters have used that very successfully.

Now, the other pieces of the jigsaw are Sandton to Johannesburg and Sandton to Pretoria and those two are at an advanced stage and they will be completed as part of this 80 km R26-billion project by the end June. I’m looking at pictures right in front of me here and they show you Pretoria station and the ticket vending machines and fare gates already in.

Hatfield station I can see the tiling on the walls and Rosebank station also far advanced and Centurion to Pretoria, that stretch I can already see that there trial runs of trains going along there. But, what you can’t see, the less visible side of this, is the legal fights that are going on here.

Now, talk on the street is that the lawyers are making a lot of money out of this. I also hear on the grapevine that one of the French companies that was involved, a very large Bouygues company, they have already written off R2-billion on this project. I hear Murray and Roberts may be facing quite a big write off. So that is the reality of these projects, not all beer and skittles.

Molebatsi: This kind of project 50-years down the line people really appreciate it and then its value comes to the fore. But, what is interesting for me Martin, is the amount of infrastructure development around the stations themselves in terms of new buildings and new hotels.

Creamer: That is the lifestyle and that is were these things will pay for themselves. The operation of these rails is also in the hands of some of these consortiums that were involved in the construction. So they have got to look long-term, but in short-term they are short-changed.

But, again, this is not a one-day wonder, it goes over a long period and we are hoping that this will be the start of the spread of rapid rail and also a spread of the new lifestyle. As you say, there are property nodes all around there, there will be bakeries that offer people bread on the station and all sorts of spin-offs. That is were a lot of the value lies.

Molebatsi: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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