Bill to make infrastructure damage a serious crime

Jenna Etheridge, News24

Cape Town - A bill has been introduced to Parliament to categorise criminal acts to infrastructure as a serious economic offence, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

He said these criminal acts, especially the theft of copper cables and metal, caused serious disruptions to the public.

"What has happened now... it has actually become a business," he told journalists in Cape Town.

"People actually steal and destroy because they want to sell this on a bigger scale. We now need to categorise it at a higher level."

Zuma was speaking after the presidential infrastructure co-ordinating commission meeting in Tuynhuis.

The Criminal Matters Amendment Bill makes it a new offence to tamper with, damage or destroy essential infrastructure which may interfere with the provision of basic services to the public.

A memorandum on the objects of the bill stated that such offences were becoming increasingly more organised.

They were often committed by armed and dangerous criminal groups.

Up to now prosecutors had to rely on the common law offence of malicious damage to property, often regarded as a minor offence, the memo stated.

The bill seeks stricter bail provisions which would require an accused to prove their release on bail was in the interests of justice.

It also provides for minimum imposed sentences and a jail term of up to 30 years.
Last month, Parliament's justice and correctional services committee said it would call for written submissions and public hearings on the bill at a later stage.