The Price of Scrap

This scrap metal sculpture which I saw in Rhyolite (Death Valley) wouldn't last long in SA

Driving, or rather crawling along whilst in a long queue created by rubberneckers gawking at yet another morning accident on the N14 highway, I had a chance to observe one of the many examples of visible metal theft in and around my general neighbourhood. The item in question is an ever diminishing heavy duty guard rail on the highway bridge after the R55 on-ramp. All that remains is a lone piece of a once complete tubular railing; its siblings having been removed and presumably sold as scrap metal or used in a shack construction project. I’m almost certain that this remaining piece will eventually disappear once the correct size of spanner has been obtained to do the dirty deed.

Metal theft is quickly becoming one of my pet hates in South African society. Stealing, whether with intent to sell or for personal use is however an age-old societal affliction and nothing new. In SA metal theft is so common that it is now barely newsworthy. In this particular instance the bridge guard railing, which is intended for public safety has been removed to make a quick buck without probably a second’s thought from those involved. It is not safe to be an item of street furniture in South Africa, unless you’re either made of plastic or wood, but even then if you haven’t been cemented into the bedrock, you’re more than likely to end up in someone else’s possession. When I first came to the country, I noted that most of the supermarket trolleys were made of plastic, in contrast to the UK where metal is preferred. Trolleys here are effectively free metal on wheels. Continue reading

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