Johannesburg’s infrastructure is at risk as rising incidences of theft, vandalism and illegal mining combine to threaten public safety.

Herman Mashaba, Johannesburg’s executing mayor, has called for intervention by city officials, stakeholders, entities and public-sector policing due to increased reports of theft and vandalism of road related infrastructure, and illegal mining with the use of explosives near highways, Transnet bulk fuel supply and Sasol gas pipelines travelling across the city.

MMC for Transport Nonhlanhla Makhuba says: “With only five months into the 2017/2018 financial year, theft and vandalism has cost the city R12,3-million in repairs and replacement due to missing man-hole covers, traffic signal poles and copper cables, road signage, guardrails, traffic signal poles, and bridge railings.

“Of the 31 CCTV cameras installed, only three remain, while 31 of 427 uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units to run traffic signals have been stolen this year. Insurance claims have risen to R4,4-million due to accident damage arising from stolen road infrastructure and people falling into open manholes.”

Mashaba adds: “The economic impact of theft and vandalism on our roads has far wider implications for the city. We are embarking on progressive interventions to address the rampant and brazen acts of criminality.

“We are calling on our stakeholders to collaborate with us in putting an end to this direct sabotage of our operations and our mandate in delivering services. The safety of our residents and all roads users is paramount, scrap dealers aiding and abetting in the sale and purchase of stolen road related infrastructure will be prosecuted.

“We are appealing to City of Johannesburg residents to support our efforts in combatting crime by reporting acts of theft and vandalism to the city’s Crime Hotline and Johannesburg Road Agency’s (JRA) Infrastructure Protection Unit (IPU).”

The city is alsoconcerned about the threat posed by illegal mining syndicates, with activity reported at decommissioned mines across the city, including mining activities along the M2 highway, M1 Double Decker bridge, Main Reef and Nasrec roads including FNB Stadium where the bulk Transnet fuel supply and SASOL gas pipelines traverse.

The use of explosives compromises public safety, with increased reports of tremors and illegal mining activity reported in close proximity to pipelines carrying gas and fuel.

Mashaba comments: “The use of explosives near pipelines carrying gas and fuel creates increased risk for neighbouring communities, puts services at risk and is an impending threat to the safety of city employees working along the pipelines and other services within the servitudes.

“Illegal mining also risks contamination of the city’s water supply.

“The explosives have also resulted in tremors, which risks the structural integrity of our roads, adjacent residential communities and businesses. Illegal blasting can create a spark that can ignite a fire capable of incinerating a large radius of up to 300m2.

“The illegal nature of the mining has compromised the pillars that support the decommissioned mines, placing additional risk on the physical structure upon which the pipelines rests and the imminent collapse of the mine.

“We can confirm that both Transnet pipelines and Sasol gas pipes have been compromised.”

The mayor has called for a collaborative crackdown operation with the Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Roads and Transport, JMPD, SAPS and Hawks to halt illegal mining activities.