DA leader Helen Zille has called for a “problem business by-law” that will empower the City of Cape Town to shut down scrapyard dealers selling stolen copper, and other undesirable entities.
And beyond the metro, Zille said there should be a limit or ban on the trade of copper.
“This is a drastic step, and the DA is not in the business of closing down enterprises. We want to make it easier, not more difficult, to do business and create jobs. But cable theft is destroying jobs, and has the potential to destroy thousands more… And if the police cannot stop these brazen criminals, then other measures are needed,” said Zille.
“Here we need to take our cue from cities in countries like the Netherlands, where mayors or city managers have the authority to identify and shut down undesirable businesses. A ‘problem business by-law’ in the city will empower us to summarily shut down dealers trading in stolen copper. Stealing from the state must carry real consequences.”
The metro has a problem building by-law which enables it to deal with structures that are a health and safety risk, but there is no legislation for problem businesses. Zille’s appeal, which has not yet been put to the city council or considered at a local government level, has been viewed with caution by the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
“In theory giving the municipality the power to close down businesses that deal in stolen goods makes sense, but will it really be effective? Will the criminals not simply move the trade to a neighbouring municipal area or into the country?” said chamber president, Janine Myburgh.
In the past, the export of scrap metals moved to other ports when law enforcement made things difficult for the criminals in Cape Town. Myburgh agreed drastic action was needed to stop copper theft.
“The problem is now so serious that it deserves the attention of the Hawks. It should be part of the battle against organised crime.”
Myburgh said the chamber had in the past supported the idea of a tax on all scrap metal exports, but that this was not supported by the authorities. “Crime, like business, is driven by demand and the key to solving the problem is to find where the demand is coming from…”
Zille said the only legal barrier to the copper trade was the “flimsy” Second-Hand Goods Act. However, the metro police had no powers under this act, which was partly why the law was ineffective.