It's enough to more than cover old-age and child support grants in South Africa for a year, and could pay for annual fuel levies twice over. But it is also the estimated annual toll that infrastructure theft takes on the economy as it increasingly hamstrings vital services such as passenger and freight rail and electricity supply. Dubbed "economic sabotage", it's fast become a politicised issue as government faces intense pressure to make meaningful interventions to tackle the crisis head-on.
Last month, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan called for a ban on scrap exports. Feeling the heat, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, in his recent budget vote, said a scrap metal draft policy would be published by the end of July. And Police Minister Bheki Cele said in his budget vote that specialised task teams would be established in hotspots where these crimes are highest.