Last week, the South African state-owned power utility, Eskom, said that a significant increase in the number of anonymous electricity theft tip-offs has been recorded in the North West Province following Eskom’s Operation Khanyisa awareness campaign, which took place in the province recently.
The anti-theft campaign, Operation Khanyisa, is an Eskom-led initiative, which aims to bring awareness to the dangers around these illegal acts.
Electricity theft is on the rise
According to Eskom’s Operation Khanyisa Champion in the North West Bryan Katane, customers and community members are coming out in large numbers to report electricity theft in general, including ghost vending – the selling of illegal prepaid electricity vouchers, a crime which Katane says has gone relatively unreported in the area.
“People are coming forward with useful information and as a result investigations are currently being carried out across the province,” he said.
Katane added that energy protection officials in the area also conduct audits on a continuous basis and have, for instance, audited approximately 60% of villages in the Rustenburg region.
According to the press statement: “Nationally, since 2013, Operation Khanyisa has recovered more than R800 million ($56 million) in revenue, primarily from fines and reconnection fees paid and prevented a further R1.4 million ($70,350) worth of electricity that would have been generated at a loss.
“Furthermore, the campaign has resulted in the arrest of 50 electricity theft suspects and the opening of 26 cases in various courts.”
Katane is appealing to all South African residents across the country to continue to work with Eskom in its fight against the scourge of electricity theft, which is costing the country a whopping R20 billion ($1.4 billion) a year.
In October, Dileep John, head of Operation Khanyisa, said: “[the initiative] has helped reduce Eskom’s losses from 7,12% to 6,43%, which translates to R1,4 billion [$70 million] electricity savings, every year, that Eskom would have generated at a loss.”
Since the initiative’s inception in 2010, there have been over 50 arrests of electricity theft suspects and over 25 cases on the court roll in the last three years alone.
Eskom explained in statement that: “Operation Khanyisa’s success has been built on a two-pronged approach, namely a Customer Compliance Approach (CCA) as well as a door-to-door customer education campaign on the legal, safe and efficient use of electricity.
“Partnerships with law enforcement agencies such as SAPS, Crimeline and the Hawks [a SAPS’ directorate for priority crime investigation] to identify, investigate and prosecute criminal elements have also played a significant role.”