Metal thieves in South Africa have stolen nearly 10km (6 miles) of working railway track near Johannesburg causing about $2.3m (ZAR 24.5 million) of damage. Over the course of several months the line was stolen by a gang described as “experts” by local rail officials. Ten kilometres of rail equals 960 tons of steel and an estimated $120,000 (ZAR 2.6 million) on the scrap market according to local reports.
The theft has left 34 brand new train cars stuck at the maintenance plant just as they were due to be put into use, and the depot which repairs Metrorail carriages now fears for its future with about 700 jobs potentially at risk. Meetings have been held with concerned parties, including Prasa, Transnet and local officials, who say plans are in place to immediately rebuild the track. Hopefully this particular crime spree is over with local papers reporting at least 23 people have been arrested in relation to the crime.
In South Africa, metal theft is a serious problem costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With Democratic Alliance spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard telling Parliament recently that: "Metal theft is a serious problem facing the country at the moment, which, if left unresolved, runs the risk of undermining the proper functioning of our infrastructure network, as well as hindering future economic growth and development.” With recent news of major investments in South African rail, authorities are keen to put a stop to these crimes.