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Zambia, SA black market thrives with Nam copper

Mon, 22 February 2016 21:42
by Rodney Pienaar
News Flash

Investigations by the Namibian Police have unearthed a syndicate of copper theft from Namibia for a thriving black market in Zambia and South Africa.

The Namibian Police confirmed to The Villager that there is a demand for copper on the black market, in South Africa and Zambia, following a N$2.5m hit on copper consignment targeted for the United Kingdom. Erongo Chief Inspector John Mwatongwe said “The truck was in transit on its way to the Walvisbay Corridor Group terminal, to the warehouse.

It was going to off load unprocessed copper that was distant for United Kingdom. The unprocessed copper was worth U$156 758.20 (N$2.5million)”. He continued that this was the 3rd separate incident of cooper theft laid with the Namibian Police (NAMPOL). “I believe foreigners are involved. Mostly South Africans and Zambians”, Mwatongwe said.

Currently all the copper theft cases were arrests were made have been transferred to the regional courts. “In one of the cases a shipment of copper from Democratic Republic of Congo via Zambia, and it was to be off loaded in Durban. A sale was offered in Namibia and Nampol was tipped off. We ambushed and arrested the culprits while they were busy with the transaction”, he said.

Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo NandiNdaitwah, speaking to The Villager said Namibia has a joined commission with its neighbouring countries and that the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration and the Namibian Police are responsible for taking care of things going in and out of the country. “As citizens our role is to link up with the police if anybody is aware of any black market dealings”, she said.

The Vice President for Africa of International Chief of Police Organisations, Sebastian Ndeitunga, said “because of our relations and cooperation in SADC region, we normally exchange information and intelligence. We are now communicating with the Zambian counterparts to find out what exactly what happened with this case”.

The consignment which was passing through the Walvisbay Corridor Group terminal before it was stolen. This hit brings the total value of stolen copper cargo to N$11.9 million in the last 4 years. In 2013, a truck carrying N$2.5 million worth of copper was nabbed from the roads, the following year another truck carrying N$2.9 million worth of copper was stolen. Last year December another truck carrying N$4 million worth of copper was stolen.

This far, all three cargos from the 3 previous years were discovered while the one stolen this year has not been recovered. Of the latest stolen consignment, six trucks were enroute to Walvisbay however one broke down in Katima Mulilo and only 5 trucks made it to the Walvisbay Harbour. Telecom Namibia’s spokesperson, Oiva Angula told The Villager that copper cable theft in Namibia is rampant with millions of dollars per annum lost by Telecom Namibia due to theft.

There is a demand for copper scrap because the red metal is used in almost every aspect of modern life, from electricity and telecommunications cables, to electronics in computers and household goods. “On international commodities markets, demand for the metal rises in line with the increasing demand from some countries in Asia, which are using ever increasing amounts of copper to update their electrical infrastructure. Thus stolen copper wires sold to scrap metal dealers normally find their way to the South African black market. From there it is sold farther afield, particularly to the Asian black market”, Angula said. Telecoms says the theft of copper cables is a serious problem in Windhoek nowadays as in 2015, 17 copper cable cuts were experienced by the company, which affected 2 300 telecom customers.

“This year alone we have already recorded three major incidents of underground copper cable theft. These malicious attacks affected about 600 customers and households. In Windhoek, The copper theft hotspots are Wanaheda, Grysblok, Hakahana, Khomasdal and Industrial areas”, Angula added. Copper wire thefts have contributed immensely to staining the image of Telecom Namibia, Angula said.

It has also stifled efforts to improve services to existing customers, let alone extending services to more Namibians. “But this is insignificant when compared to the several million dollars of lost revenue as result of the inability of customers to make or receive calls, send or receive fax messages or access the internet”, Angula told The Villager.