Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 19 May 2011 – South African national power utility Eskom Holdings has revealed that farmers are responsible for nearly half the incidents of electricity theft throughout the country.

“A national audit of medium to large power users has revealed that the agricultural sector has the highest incidence of electricity theft, with farmers being responsible for up to 48% of electricity theft incidents,” said Eskom.

A senior manager with the utility’s energy loss programme, Maboe Maphaka, said Eskom had adopted a zero tolerance approach to the crime, and would address the issue with representatives of the National Maize Producers’ Organisation (Nampo).

“Nampo is the obvious platform to engage, with an estimated 70,000 people within the agricultural sector to drive home the need for legal power use, and to mobilise farmers to report illegal activities,” he explained.

Maphaka said investigations had revealed that syndicates were operating on a large scale across the country, enticing farmers to tamper with their electrical installations. Some electricians and Eskom employees were implicated in the practice, charging up to R3,000 a meter, or point, for their services.

“More often than not, in areas where Eskom has conducted audits, further investigation revealed that up to 80% of points in the area had also been tampered with,” he added.

Maphaka called for a stop to such electricity theft. “There is no need to resort to crime as there are so many ways to save electricity and cut costs.”

He said that Eskom “’ together with Agri SA, Business Against Crime, Business Unity SA, Proudly SA and the SA Chamber of Commerce “’ would mobilise the business and agricultural sectors to join its Operation Khanyisa, aimed at halting electricity theft.

Agri SA president Johannes Möller said his organisation took a principled stance when it came to all forms of crime, including electricity theft.

"We are particularly worried about the trend of electricity theft among farmers. In support of Operation Khanyisa, we will be taking a proactive stance in urging the farming community and broader agricultural sector to ensure our house is in order,” he added.