Vandals to face stiff sentencing

2016-06-22 06:00

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ANY person who unlawfully and intentionally interferes with or damages a structure, facility or system that is used to provide an essential service to the public, if found guilty could face up to 30 years imprisonment.

This is according to the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, 2015 (CMA, 2015) enacted by the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.

The Bill seeks to amend the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and the Criminal Law Act of 1977 with the objective of regulating bail and sentencing for infrastructure-related offences.

Infrastructure-related crime has become a menace to society as it leaves entire communities without basic services like electricity, communication, water or sanitation.

The South African Local Government Association (Salga), reports that the “replacement value of water and sanitation infrastructure in South Africa costs R44 billion as of 2011”.

High levels of unemployment and the market for goods like cables, steel and plastic compromise our infrastructure.

The unemployed intentionally targets infrastructure for cash, while unscrupulous scrap metal buyers turn a blind eye as to how these goods had been obtained.

The allocation of R15 billion over the medium term for the construction of bulk water and sanitation infrastructure could become a fruitless exercise if we do not clamp down on vandalism and theft of infrastructure.

The bill goes on to state that “any person who facilitates or assists anybody to commit an infrastructure-related offence” is not off the hook; upon conviction, they could face up to 30 years imprisonment”.

It is sad that often those who are entrusted with guarding and protecting our infrastructure are the very ones who collude with criminals.

In rural areas, because of the close proximity of the infrastructure to the communities, chances of vandalism are high when compared to the urban context. According to the bill “any person found on the premises of an infrastructure facility without a reasonable explanation is guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to a minimum imprisonment of three (3) years.

In urban areas, the scenario is different; the crime is more organised because ordinary citizens do not have easy access to infrastructure.

Illegal water connections also contribute to vandalism as the connections are not properly made and result in water leaks wasting thousands of rand.

I hereby urge all communities to take ownership of infrastructure in general by protecting it and by reporting vandals and criminals to law enforcement agencies. After all, it is the community that suffers when there is no water or other services

Some of the initiatives to eliminate theft and vandalism of infrastructure include robust community engagement through community forums.

The forums are intended to instill in communities a culture of ownership of infrastructure by protecting it.

We are also looking into partnering with scrap metal buyers to root out this menace of theft of infrastructure. Working together we can do more!

Water has no substitute. . . protect our water and sanitation infrastructure.

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