#UniteBehind accuses Epping company of buying copper stolen from railways

SA Metal says its staff are trained to identify stolen material and to alert management immediately

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Photo of protesters
About 50 people picketed outside the SA Metal Group in Epping on Thursday, demanding an end to the buying and selling of stolen copper. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

About 50 people picketed outside the SA Metal Group in Epping on Thursday, demanding an end to the buying and selling of stolen copper.

The picket, organised by #UniteBehind, is part of its #FixOurTrains campaign. The theft of industrial copper cables used by state owned enterprises, such as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is one of the biggest challenges facing the rail system.

Picket organiser Zukiswa Vuka said, “The hardest hit people are those living in our poor communities.”

“People steal copper in our communities, then bring it here to SA Metal to sell. They do not even produce any identification when coming here. … In Cape Town there is no copper mine but the amount of copper we have is huge. Where are our people getting this copper?” asked Vuka.

#UniteBehind member June Esau addressed the crowd saying SA Metal was encouraging thieves to steal metal. “When there are no signals on the trains, blame SA Metal. When you are in the train and it suddenly gets stuck, remember SA Metal. SA Metal should stop buying stolen copper, if we were to go inside these premises we would find stolen copper,” said Esau.

Placards read: “SA Metal must report any people trying to sell copper” and “Down with cable theft”.

SA Metal director Graham Barnett came out to accept and sign a memorandum from the picketers.

Some of the demands on the detailed memorandum included that SA Metal not accept stolen copper; must submit all copper in its yard for inspection; must report the selling of stolen copper; and should be prosecuted if found with stolen metal in its yards.

Barnett told GroundUp in an email, “SA Metal does not purchase any stolen copper. It purchases scrap copper. Scrap copper arises from many different sources.”

In a pamphlet handed over to the picketers by Barnett, it stated that SA Metal buys copper wires and cables sold by Eskom, Telkom, Transnet, PRASA, municipalities and others on tenders and auction.

“All our purchasing staff are trained to identify such [stolen] material and to alert management immediately if any such material is delivered. We regularly receive warnings of specific metal which has been stolen and if such metal is delivered to any of our yards, the owners are immediately notified,” it stated.

TOPICS:  Civil Society Transport

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