The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has introduced a barometer to measure the extent of copper cable theft, which is costing the economy an estimated R5-billion a year.
Sacci executive adviser Peggy Drodskie said that the “enormous and unnecessary loss" did not even include the cost of labour to replace the cables or security to guard the infrastructure.
She added that there were also significant indirect repercussions of copper cable theft such as poor service delivery, negative investor perception, power outages that could result in poor productivity, deterioration in exports and even the shutting down of business operations.
Sacci developed the barometer in collaboration with three of its most affected members, Telkom, Transnet and Eskom.
The barometer measures and monitors the extent of copper cable theft on a monthly basis with the objective of raising the general awareness of the problem and to engage public participation in combating the crime.
CEO Neren Rau said that this first barometer compiled by Sacci indicated a link to international copper prices and cable theft, suggesting that organised crime syndicates were involved.
The barometer, which reflected the experiences of the three members, showed two peaks in copper theft in November 2009, and March 2010, that cost the economy R46,42-million and R47,2-million respectively.
However, November 2010, saw a substantial improvement on a year-on-year basis at a cost of R18-million, which was a 60% reduction in replacement cost compared with November last year.
“In recent months, replacement cost levels remained volatile but at substantially lower levels than experienced earlier in the year. The November level is less than a third of the March 2010 peak,” said Drodskie.
Sacci noted that the analysis of trends in copper theft would be presented on a year-on-year basis.
This initiative also falls in line with the objectives of Sacci’s South Africa First Campaign, which calls on all South Africans to work towards a more productive and competitive South Africa.
Rau said that Sacci was committed to releasing analysis relevant to certain challenges faced by business.
He noted that the chamber was also considering a new barometer that dealt with the issue of water, including the scarcity of the resource and the pressing issue of acid mine drainage.