Can we just shoot the thieving bastards?

2011-12-05 07:52

Chris Moerdyk

I was having breakfast on a rather nice train called Premier Classe last week, basking in the luxury of a 25 hour chilling-out journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town at a quarter of the price of the Blue Train but with three quarters of the luxury, when it was announced that due to cable theft we would have to get off the train at Touws River and travel the remaining 200km to Cape Town by bus.

On my way back to my compartment I heard a fellow passenger mutter  something about shooting the thieving bastards only to have his companion say: “Ag shame man, those people are probably starving...if you were starving don’t tell me you wouldn’t steal stuff?”

I sat down in my compartment and considered those two points of view.

Yes, on one hand, petty crime was getting completely out of hand and while the consequence of crime would mean starving people getting to eat something, all sorts of other consequences would cause a lot of innocent people to starve instead.

Like the staff of that train who would lose their jobs if passengers had to be continually bussed to their destinations because of cable theft.

As we rolled into Touws Riiver and came to a stop just outside the station, opposite the town graveyard on one side and absolutely nothing on the other, I came to the conclusion that if we wished to be called civilised we could not simply go around shooting people for stealing things.

On the other hand, the excuse that petty crime should be tolerated because people are starving is just as stupid because in places like India where poverty is on a far bigger scale than in South Africa, petty crime is a lot lower.

Anyway, it would be nuts to go down the road of condoning crime on the basis of the necessity to feed starving people because just where would one draw the line for heaven’s sake?

Someone without bread who feels that it is OK to get away with swiping a loaf or two would more than likely feel the same way about justifying the theft of a BMW because he had no transport.

But, getting back to copper cable, I saw a statistic a while back that the Western Cape exports roughly 250 000 tons of copper a year. Which to me is quite remarkable for a province that doesn’t actually produce any copper.

Now, on the basis that the police cannot keep an eye on every metre of electric wire in the country and that so far, raiding scrap metal dealers has not dissuaded thieves from plying their trade, the only possible way to stop this is to put a ban on the sale or trade in second hand copper wire.

Then make the companies that imported, sold or made that copper wire in the first place, responsible for storing the second hand stuff which could then be exported with the proceeds going to charities that feed hungry people.

After all, this is what companies do in Europe with second hand cars and all sorts of other consumer and industrial products.

“You make it, you sell it, you take it back and you recycle it.”

And if any company refuses to play the game well, then I suppose one could just shoot the bastards.   

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

Send your comments to Chris

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • JudithNkwe - 2011-12-05 08:39

    A creative solution to the problem

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2011-12-05 12:07

      Another creative solution to a problem of our collective 'South African' being a thieving , raping , murderous , substance abuser and by a creative solution we mean a way to work around the problem rather than solving it. Hell why not draw the line at rape being regarded as taking my fair share of sex to survive. For some reason a humiliation of five strokes in the town square and some jail time seemed to help.

      Tc - 2011-12-06 07:22

      The fact is that those thieving basterds are usually NOT dying of hunger. They are simply 'thieving bastards'. Fact.

  • MastersVoice - 2011-12-05 09:02

    I would not rate copper cable theft as petty crime, as it usually affects many people. It is a crime committed against fellow South Africans and is directly affecting our economy. I would agree that second-hand copper dealerships should be banned outright, leaving it to specific licensed vendors. As always though, our problem is one of enforcement, with a police force tarnished with corruption, extortion and bribery.

      Deon - 2011-12-05 09:23

      I agree, at least 1 minister wants to make this a terrorist crime and put these people away for life.

  • Johan - 2011-12-05 09:53

    To me it seems very insulting to assume that people steal because they hungry. To further the India example, I believe that there are far more desperately poor people in this country that choose not to steal than there are supposed needy criminals. It is economic sabotage in a country that can ill afford it.

  • Device - 2011-12-05 10:30

    Chris this is a very complicated issue we are dealing with here. Firstly people don't only steal because they are hungry, in fact that kind of crime (petty crime) is tolerable and happens all over the world. This is very different from copper theft and as MasterVoice pointed out in his comment copper theft is definitely not petty crime. this illicit trade is governed by complex organised crime syndicates, unscrupulous scrap metal dealers and a global economy that is pushing up the demand for copper especially in China and India and other fast developing countries. So i guess that maybe the guys who do the actual physical theft of copper cables might be facing hunger however they are not going to eat the copper are they? they are going to sell it to people who are are going to re-sell it to people who are going to use it for buildings. Therefore this situations does go way beyond hunger its a structural problem of our globalised economy and is therefore as political and economic as it is about surviving hunger. nice article by the way, always enjoy your pieces.

  • Hennie - 2011-12-05 11:13

    Your proposal for Copper recycling is interesting and it can actually work. But what would you know about starving people as you are obviously one of the privileged. It is one thing to have a lot to say about the need for food but quite another to live with it.

      Jerhone - 2011-12-05 11:43

      Most of those stealing are just lazy males just drive through a township they only get up at 10 am because they got dik geroek the night before, then they sit on a box or crate in the sun like dassies, thawing out the ganja thats still in the bloodstream with Bob Marley blasting out of a boombox,three hrs of suntaning and smoking more of the intelligent weed they come alive and start planning what to steal, that lasts until night time, then they look around for any female they can mount for the night next day same routine

      Device - 2011-12-05 12:55

      @jerhone I am not sure how one can deduce all of that from simply driving through a place, it almost sounds as though you have been living in a township from your detailed accounts of how lazy males spend their days there. Either that or you are just spewing the same ignorant rubbish that you heard at a braai one Saturday afternoon. Honestly though where do you get this stuff from? AND PLEASE DON'T SAY FROM MEDIA REPORTS!

      Steenbra - 2011-12-05 17:56

      Device what u need is a reality check. What u need to do is go to these areas.. My nephew got robbed in one of these areas trying to make an honest living and only when the same guys tried to do it again they got more than they bargained for..One has to honest about some of the things and yes a lot of these CHOOSE to rob, steal and the like as opposed to making an honest living.. We do work in this areas and know what goes on here. maybe some time u should go look for yourself and take the blinkers off and be honest about what you see.

      Device - 2011-12-06 10:24


      Steenbra - 2011-12-06 14:56

      So nitwit I spend a hell of a lot of time there... and you cant tell that I am ignorant and dont know what happens there.. Perhaps i should take you around Bonties, kreefgat , lavender hill and Scottsdene and show what is taking place. Clearly you are blind to it. Go an call your friends nitwit..

  • Dave - 2011-12-05 13:15

    The idea that people steal copper cable to feed themselves is quite silly. A starving person cannot eat copper. A starving person does not have the energy to go and steal copper cables. A starving person cannot wait the time it takes to sell stolen copper cable, or else they would die of starvation. A starving person does not usually have the equipment necessary to acquire and transport stolen copper cables, if they did then it would make more sense to sell that instead. This kind of operation is not done by starving people, it is done by syndicates of skilled, able and experienced thieves. These thieves should pay the full price for their crimes.

  • Jacob - 2011-12-05 13:38

    A colleague of mine is the CEO of a security company in Pretoria. He was told point blank by a Nigerian last week that they (the Nigerians)and the Zimbabweans who work for him, are in this country for the single purpose of 'doing crime' because it is easier to do it in SA than in their own countries. It's their job. I am an electronics sub-contractor, they are criminals. And they see nothing wrong with that. It's very lucrative. What's more, if they have to kill to do their work, well it's just one of the risks of the job. None of them are starving; on the contrary, they are doing very well, thank you. They have taken over certain parts of central Pretoria as drug and slumlords, pimps and petty criminals. They run entire apartment blocks that they have taken over and even have policemen on their payrolls. The bottom line here is that crime and poverty are often not as inextricabley linked as many believe them to be.

  • SarelJBotha - 2011-12-05 13:40

    While at proposing shooting thieves, which I find agreeable, imagine how many politicians will get shot.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-05 13:54

    internationally crimes of necessity are treated more lightly than other crimes, this is confirmed during disaster situation where "looters" caught stealing food stuffs are in most cases allowed to keep their ill gotten gains and are not in general prosecuted. However theft during non disaster periods are a different thing entirely, and these people are not stealing food they are stealing non edible products which makes them the low life criminals they are. Shooting them is not an option unless you own an ammunition factory in which case shooting them is just good business. Pity their own government doesn't really care about them either.

  • Leonard - 2011-12-05 15:27

    Garden Secateurs - Cut the bastards fingers off one by one and shove them down their throats - Problem solved - No more petty crime.

  • Larry - 2011-12-05 15:38


  • Sharon - 2011-12-05 19:07

    This reminds me of the story in August 2008 when thieves stole the bolts from an electricity pylon and it collapsed, leaving a huge area in Durban without power for days. How much did they get for the bolts? Hopefully enough for a loaf of bread.... It doesn't make sense.

  • Daan - 2011-12-06 09:58

    Unfortunately everyone is missing the point. STOP the DRUG TRADE. Shoot pedlars. Shoot drug traders. Get the SUPPLY off the streets. Make it EXTREMELY difficult to sell the Sh#t. Dry-up the supply, and the demand WILL be removed. Trying to reduce the demand and treating druggies will NOT address the problem. Pass 1 law. Make it quite clear that we have ZERO TOLLERANCE for drug trafficking.

  • Ryan - 2011-12-07 07:58

    We should not only shoot them we should, send their families an account for the bullets used say R5000 a pop and dump their rotting carcases down a very deep mine shaft.

  • pages:
  • 1