OUR country is under serious threat of destruction due to aculture of vandalism and criminality. The threat is fuelled by theft and vandalism committed by criminal elements selling copper, including companies using copper wiring. Water pumping stations, Telkom’s communication line exchangers and Eskom’s power substations are being destroyed by criminals dealing in copper. This is crippling the potential for economic growth in the country. It is against this background that the government has taken serious action to curb escalating vandalism and theft, sentencing perpetrators to no less than five years in prison. For the first time, offenders will receive a minimum sentence of no less than three years in prison. It is embarrassing to see that people have made crime a norm.We do understand there is a high unemployment rate, but we cannot encourage people to vandalise and steal out of the same basket from which they receive basic services. A typical example is criminals cutting copper cables at power substations in order to make a living. Individuals who steal these important materials to provide for their families are selfish. The whole community suffers due to the selfish activity of one man or a few individuals, spending days without water, while the municipality and the water board are trying to raise funds to replace stolen cables for supply to be restored. Vandalism and copper-cable theft is costing the government a lot of money and affects the community, including the perpetrators.It is the responsibility of every citizen to look after our resources and prevent criminality in our communities by reporting perpetrators to the police. Often we know the perpetrators, but out of fear for victimisation, people keep quiet or turn a blind eye. In doing this, we are equally to blame. This is the case when we know our partners and children do not have jobs, but become excited when one of them comes home with groceries. We do not bother to question where they found the money to buy groceries on that day.I believe it is only fair that people are punished for all their wrongs, especially those which severely affect many lives. Such punishment will serve as a deterrent to those intending to continue with the same act. They will think twice before getting involved, or they will decide to not do it at all. I must stress that it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure crime is rooted out by reporting the perpetrators and teaching our neighbours and children the importance of protecting resources which benefit us all. We must go back to the olden ways of Ubuntu, taking care of one another, rather than just taking care of your own family and forgetting about your neighbours. Taking care of one another and our infrastructure at the same time, will make us a better nation. Kido Thoabala, communications manager at the Department of Water and Sanitation, writes in her personal capacity. Express Eastern Free State welcomes anyone interested in contributing to the weekly column as social observers or citizen journalists. There is no payment for writers. Send your opinion piece (not exceeding 500 words, in Sotho or English) to email@example.com. Church leaders are welcome to submit spiritual articles.