Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has called for the suspects arrested for cable theft "to be charged with economic sabotage".
In a statement on Thursday, the minister said the call comes after the South African Police Service (SAPS), acting on information received from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) security, arrested suspects for possession of the agency's aluminium cable with an estimated value of R10 million.
The suspects were arrested in Mmakau in the North West, the statement reads.
"The Criminal Matters Amendment Act, 2015, Act No. 18 of 2015, which commenced on 1 June 2016, defines essential infrastructure as any installation, structure, facility or system, whether publicly or privately owned and states that the loss or damage of, or the tampering with, which may interfere with the provision or distribution of a basic service to the public as economic sabotage."
The minister said the act "explicitly elevates" cable theft in the rail industry "effectively to economic sabotage".
"We continue to work closely with the justice crime prevention and security cluster to ensure we eliminate these syndicates."
The minister called for those arrested for cable theft to be handed "the highest sentence".
"This will not only deter other criminals but will ensure our work to fix Prasa is not derailed. We have the law on our side, it must be used," Mbalula said.
He said the act allows only for the court to grant bail in the matter and imposes a maximum sentence of 30 years for individuals and a fine of up to R100 million for corporate entities.
Mbalula applauded the police, Prasa security and the community in their collective efforts resulting in the arrest.
He noted "a successful prosecution, conviction and sentencing to 12 years" of those who stole Telkom cables worth R35,000.
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)
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