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

On Thursday, state-owned power utility, Eskom, warned that the six-month sentence handed down to an electricity theft accused by the Malamulele Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo should serve as a warning to all perpetrators of this crime.

The parastatal has been fighting an ongoing battle of late to mitigate the increased acts of theft and vandalism on state power infrastructure.

Eskom arrests foreign national

According to the utility, the accused Mozambican national faced charges of fraud related to illegal connections as well as electricity theft.

He was found guilty on all counts and was imprisoned without the option of a fine, the parastatal added.

Dileep John, Head of Operation Khanyisa – the Eskom-led campaign that fights electricity and cable theft, said: “Electricity theft is a criminal offence. However, there remains a perception that nobody can be arrested for stealing electricity. The reality though, as this case shows, is that if you steal electricity, you will get caught and you could face a jail sentence.”

According to John, more than 50 people have been arrested in recent times as a result of the Operation Khanyisa campaign, while 26 cases have been opened on the court roll, Eskom explaied.

“In South Africa, electricity theft remains one of the most serious but under-reported crimes, in spite of its consequences, including deaths that result from dangerous illegal connections,” John said.

Common acts of crime

Eskom explains the most common forms of electricity theft include illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing, the buying and selling of illegal prepaid power vouchers through stolen or ghost credit dispensing units (CDUs), infrastructure theft and non-payment, all of which are punishable by law.

“We will continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, particularly the kingpins and syndicates,” John assured.

The anti-theft campaign, Operation Khanyisa, is an Eskom-led initiative, which aims to bring awareness to the dangers around these illegal acts.

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 an earlier statement.