Last week, an entourage of Eskom crime prevention partners, security and the Hawks arrested three suspects on the Gauteng West Rand for trying to sell assets belonging to the state-owned power utility.

The trio were seen trying to sell an aluminium overhead conductor and cables, and swift action was taken following a tip-off regarding employees of an Eskom contractor selling scrap cables at a local scrap metals dealer.

Following a week of utility briefings around public safety and the launch of campaigns around corruption and vandalism, these arrests are evident that utility efforts are paying off.

Possession of state assets

The utility explained that on the arrests of the suspects, various items were discovered at the scrap metals dealer including:

  • A 400kg aluminium overhead conductor,
  • 1,030kg of Eskom steel structures, and
  • 9kg of stripped copper cable.

The power company has estimated the total value of the stolen items at around ZAR7,000 ($465).

“Various implements and tools like hammers shovels and pick axes, an 8-tonne truck, and cellphones were also confiscated and will be used as exhibits in court,” Eskom said.

A case of possession of stolen Eskom property has been registered with the Krugersdorp branch of the South African Police Service.

Exposed assets are soft targets

Eskom is plagued by network equipment theft, generally referred to as conductor, cable or copper theft.

This includes the theft of overhead lines, underground cables, airdac and bundle conductors, earthing equipment, transformers, pylon support lattices and so forth.

The value of material stolen remains a serious concern, as it is indicative of organised, syndicate-driven criminal activity in the conductor theft environment, which is also experienced by other state-owned enterprises, the utility stressed in a statement.

The fight against network equipment theft is being addressed by means of intelligence driven investigations by the Hawks, a division of SAPS, which encompasses aggressive policing of the scrap metal market for stolen goods.

The courts are also taking this crime seriously and significant sentences are being handed out to perpetrators. A joint industry working group, formed by Eskom, Transnet, Telkom, SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority, Business Against Crime and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), continues to contribute positively in the fight against this crime.