There has been a huge spike in vandalism cases of essential infrastructure in both the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros over the past financial year, placing significant strain on service delivery to residents.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, reported cases more than doubled, rising from 143 cases in the 2020/2021 financial year to 292 reported cases in 2021/2022 financial year. For the same period under review, in Buffalo City, the cases rose over 76%, from 146 cases to 258.
This horrific destruction of essential infrastructure includes the theft of cables, ruining of public facilities such as schools, water distribution equipment, electricity substations, sewerage works, and commuter delays, damaging the economy and the environment.
These figures, which looked at a nine-month period between April and December per financial year, were provided by the Community Safety MEC, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, in response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance.
MEC Tikana Gxothiwe revealed that over the past four years, during the period between April and December, there have been 1232 reported cases of vandalism of essential infrastructure in Nelson Mandela Bay (748) and BCM (484).
See IQP4 Q76
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the statistics provided do not include the other 37 municipalities in the province.
Criminals are destroying the very fabric of our society and creating a wasteland of lawlessness, which is holding our society hostage.
Reports indicate that, on a national basis, infrastructure vandalism has resulted in R7 billion worth of damage to Transnet, Telkom and Eskom. It is estimated that the ensuing costs to the economy are R187 billion annually.
Over the past four years, Nelson Mandela Bay has had 72 cellphone towers vandalised, along with 90 cases of railway infrastructure damaged and 89 electrical substations being vandalized. In BCM, 96 cellphone towers were vandalised, 43 cases of railway infrastructure and three electrical substations have been vandalized over the same period.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, over the four years, there have only been 776 arrests with a paltry 217 successful prosecutions, while in BCM, there has been even fewer arrests, with just 396 arrests and a miserable 37 successful prosecutions.
The policing areas that have been hit the hardest in Nelson Mandela Bay are Swartkops, Uitenhage, Mount Road, Kamesh and Algoa Park. While in BCM, it is East London, Cambridge, Zwelitsha, Mdantsane and Ndevana.
SAPS needs to pull out all stops to eradicate this terrible destruction of our infrastructure, and I believe a special task force needs to be established so that the culprits can be hunted down along with those buying the scrap metal. Community organisations such as police forums and neighbourhood watches need to mobilise residents to protect their infrastructure.
The cost to the economy is enormous, and the inconvenience to residents and businesses is a huge burden. This scourge needs to be eradicated from our society before more schools, buildings, and railway stations are damaged and forced to close.