South African parastatal, Eskom, has warned that businesses are not immune from electricity theft and should a business be caught, they will face consequences.
The national utility said in a statement on Wednesday that electricity theft is one of the most serious but under reported crimes in South Africa. This is in spite of the fact that the country loses at least ZAR20 billion ($1.4 billion) a year to electricity theft, three quarters of which is reported to be losses suffered by municipalities.
“We have a Zero-Harm policy at Eskom, and this extends to the communities we serve. Therefore, the loss of even one life is one too many. This is why our focus will always be stronger in the residential sector,” the utility explained.
However, they noted that this issue extends beyond residential jurisdiction: “ We have taken action against many businesses, and some recent examples are a popular pizza franchise in Limpopo, a guest house in KwaZulu-Natal and many others.”
In response to this scourge, Operation Khanyisa was launched in October 2010 as an Eskom-led national behaviour change campaign in partnership with Crime Line, Proudly South African, Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Business Against Crime and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).
The campaign is aimed at promoting the legal, safe and efficient use of electricity, Eskom explained.
“If electricity theft is not only confined to the residential sector, people often wonder why so far we have not dealt decisively with municipalities, businesses and even some government departments who are said to be the biggest culprits,” the utility said.
The power company added: “The main reason why we focus more on the residential sector is because this is where electricity theft has the worst consequences, which is the loss of life.
“And it is often innocent children who get electrocuted by dangerous illegal connections.
“In Mpumalanga for example, in the past three years there were 15 reported cases of people who were killed as a result of electricity theft from illegal connections, meter tampering and cable theft. Many others were injured while even more were not reported for fear of prosecution. We just cannot let such crimes against our people go on unabated.”