The true cost of the effect of cable theft in South Africa is grossly underestimated. Because of this, the political will is lacking when electrical cable theft has to be addressed. SACCI reported in 2015 that R15m worth of cables was stolen per month resulting in a loss of R5m to the South African economy.
Since then, SACCI discontinued their report on cable theft. Due to the lack of SACCI data the loss is not quantified at present – although the situation is generally seen as much worse.\
But how much worse? We investigated the losses of the following major institutions:
- Transnet lost R580m in 2016/17 
- TELKOM lost R207m in 2015 
- ESKOM lost R2.0b in 2017 
- 3 Gauteng Metros lost R500m 2018 
- PRASA lost R625m for 10 months in 2018 
- The Carte Blanche expose on copper cable theft reported that copper to the value of R440m is illegally exported every month. 
The world average value loss factor of electrical cable (the theft of the cable) to resultant loss (loss in productivity etc resulting from the power outage) is 35-50 times the value of the cable. The factor used by SACCI in 2015 was 39 (R15m per month and R7b per year).
Using SACCI’s factor of 39 and the R4.8b calculated above, the present resulting loss to the South African economy is a shocking R187b per year.
To put it into perspective, with R187b we can: Build:
- 1.7m RDP Houses 
- 75 new hospitals 
- 748 Nkandlas 
- 1.1m new Police Officers 
- 579,000 Nurses 
- 134,000 Medical Specialists 
- 9m new senior citizens pensions 
- 3m University students loans 
- Each South African resident R3,334 
- all ESKOM’s debt in 2.5 years  … every year.
And it is going to get worse:
- Electric cars use 300% more copper 
- Green energy generation requires up to 800% more copper 
- Copper is already in short supply - and there will be a 10 million ton shortage in 2028 
- Copper prices are rising. Citibank projects a copper price of $9,000/ton in 2018 
- Unemployment is at 27% and it will stay high 
This will result in an increase in cable theft because of:
- Escalating copper prices
- Increasing demand
- Rising unemployment South Africa will continue to feel the effect of loss because of copper theft – and there is no simple and inexpensive solution to this problem.
In addition, only 7% of apprehended copper thieves are convicted because cable ownership has to be proven to establish theft and convict the perpetrator. This makes the risk of copper cable theft acceptable to thieves.
The only solution is to destroy the illegal copper resale market. CableDNA is a South African company which has developed a revolutionary cable identification method to permanently identify copper cables and other assets. Cables (even already installed cables) are infused with a fluid that contains unique microscopic identifiers.
These identifiers can withstand being burnt, being granulated and being melted into ingots. This technology makes cables identified by CableDNA too risky to steal, buy or sell because effective prosecution of thieves and illegal copper dealers will be inevitable.
- Carte Blanche Documentary on cable theft, aired on 6 March 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbAYfC0IOB0&t=3s