Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says in order to to alleviate the risk of continued damage, theft and vandalism of freight rail infrastructure in the country, government should consider a temporary ban on the sale of scrap metal.
Gordhan was replying to questions in the National Assembly of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
Gordhan also spent much of his time in the plenary defending Transnet's partnership initiatives with the private sector to develop infrastructure and extend the Durban harbour in a R100-billion project, which will increase container capacity from 2.9 million units to more than 11 million units.
ANC MP Nkosinathi Dlamini asked how private partnerships would assist with protecting freight rail infrastructure. Gordhan said Transnet, the department, and law enforcement were discussing what could be done to improve security.
"There is absolutely no doubt that copper theft and rail theft and vandalism [are] having a disastrous effect on logistics in South Africa. We are working with [the] police to ensure that special teams are established to understand who is behind it," said Gordhan.
The minister said the Department of Public Enterprises was working with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to figure out ways to discourage the continued theft of infrastructure, including the possibility of banning the sale of scrap metal temporarily.
"I would like to reiterate that it is my firm view that the export of scrap metal must be banned for a while - for a start - and that will ensure that there is no market external for that infrastructure that is, in fact, stolen and vandalised in one way or another."
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Gordhan said if there were an investor that would like to co-invest with Transnet on the expansion of the Durban harbour, several operators in the maritime sector would be interested in getting involved and contribute to the development of the infrastructure.
"There are a range of benefits from an infrastructure point of view, but also from a trade point of view and a shipping point of view, that various parties will be interested in," he said.
MPs from the EFF challenged Gordhan on the partnerships Transnet was entering into with the private sector to develop infrastructure and extend the Durban port, including the sale of slots.
The EFF called this arrangement privatisation by other means, and Gordhan pushed back, saying it had benefits for participating businesses as well as the government.