The demand for valuable metals combined with increasing poverty levels has seen an increase in the vandalism of public property in the Buffalo City Metro in the Eastern Cape. Vandals are targeting historic monuments, statues, and street lights.
Residents are concerned that authorities are not sufficiently addressing the matter. Ratepayers also feel that a low conviction rate for these crimes encourages the perpetrators to continue with their pilfering.
A globally known landmark in East London has been systematically stripped. This is a Multicultural Man, by the Italian artist, Francesco Perilli, symbolising the universal humanity of all cultures. But now it stands as a symbol of the outrage residents feel at the wanton vandalism.
“As a citizen of course the rampant destruction of cable, and lights is damaging the image of the City and the safety within the City. From the heritage perspective it’s heart-breaking, the vandalism and damage to this iconic statue given per continent by a village in Italy celebrating the confluence of all of our cultures,” says Dr. Daya Appavoo a heritage activist.
The scrap metal industry is lucrative but buyers are warned against taking stolen goods.
“It’s very rough, people tend to get very nasty about it when you cannot buy what they have got and when they do come with illegal stuff cops do get involved, we get involved it’s a very strict business to get into l must say,” says Lucy Nass a scrap metal businesswoman.
Municipal infrastructure is at the mercy of thieves. Just recently social media was abuzz after an alleged cable thief was filmed stripping the cable out of a lamp post in East London.
Over the past two years, the Buffalo City Metro has recorded more than 300 cases of vandalism to its infrastructure.
“This is a war that will win if we and the communities are working together. These thieves are becoming brazen because of the fact that they are not getting caught. That’s why we are urging people to assist us and report these cases. We’ll definitely be intensifying our operations,” says Samkelo Ngwenya the Buffalo City Metro spokesperson.
The Buffalo City Metro has already forked out R26 million to replace and repair vandalised infrastructure.