Behind bars. Picture credit: Clipart Kid
Behind bars. Picture credit: Clipart Kid

South Africa’s utility drive against electricity theft is well underway, with efforts focused on exposing, arresting and prosecuting perpetrators spear-heading these criminal acts. The anti-theft campaign, Operation Khanyisa, is an Eskom-led initiative, which aims to bring awareness to the dangers around these illegal acts.

Operation Khanyisa on track

According to the parastatal, Dileep John, head of Operation Khanyisa, said that Eskom will continue on its drive to expose, arrest and prosecute perpetrators at the forefront of electricity theft.

John said this during the Southern African Revenue Protection Association Convention held in Bloemfontein recently.

His comments come on the back of a national survey conducted to determine the level of awareness, attitudes to and beliefs about this crime, which suggests that while a staggering 96% of South Africans believed that electricity theft was wrong, only 16% believed that they would get caught and a mere 14% believed that they would get prosecuted if caught, the utility explained.

Reducing losses

Since 2013, Operation Khanyisa has helped reduce Eskom’s losses from 7,12% to 6.43%, which amounts to an estimated R1,4 billion ($68 million) savings every year in electricity that Eskom would have generated at a loss, the utility explained.

In addition, the campaign has helped in the recovery of R618 million ($42 million) in revenue for Eskom, while at the same time caught those responsible for these crimes.

The utility explained that the revenue comes mainly from the billing of historic lost electricity consumption as well as fines and re-connection fees paid.

“In 2013, Eskom’s Energy Losses Management Programme took a more stringent approach in the fight against electricity theft when it combined meter auditing, investigation and enforcement with customer education and awareness in an integrated roll-out targeting hot spot areas with high levels of energy and revenue loss,” Eskom said.

According to the utility, this approach has resulted in the arrest of 50 electricity theft suspects and the opening of 26 cases on the court roll.

John noted: “We will continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime, particularly the kingpins and syndicates.”

Crime on the increase

The utility has identified four major problem areas, including the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces.

“The aim is to make communities aware of the basics of safe electricity usage and the risks associated with electricity theft, meter tampering, bypassing and illegal connections. The power utility wants people to know how to identify the dangers and what to do if or when they spot them,” the utility expalined.

Jace Naidoo, Corporate Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Senior Manager at Eskom, commented: “We occasionally get reports of people being injured or losing their lives as a result of the unsafe use of electricity.

“At Eskom, we want to get to a point where we eliminate all injuries and fatalities caused by electricity, hence we are going to the communities to ask them to help us in this fight.”

She added: “We are aware of the biggest causes of these incidents and would like to appeal to our consumers to assist us by avoiding connecting illegally or making contact with low-hanging cables.”

Eskom continues to put in place numerous strategies aimed at combating energy losses. These included the removal of illegal connections, subsidising low-income customers, tamper fines as well as replacements of faulty meters as part of the company’s maintenance and refurbishment programmes.

Featured image: Clipart Kid