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

On Monday, South African power company, Eskom, announced that a Johannesburg man has been arrested for involvement in the selling of illegal prepaid electricity vouchers, otherwise known as ghost vending.

The suspect was arrested in Kagiso township west of Johannesburg, where it is believed he operated.

Hawks in action

In a joint operation, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Hawks searched the suspect’s residence and found 598 illegal prepaid vouchers as well as R8,500 ($669.5) in cash.

The suspect and the evidence were handed over to the Kagiso SAPS station where a case of fraud was opened, the utility said.

“The buying and selling of illegal prepaid electricity vouchers is a crime that has taken root in many parts of the country,” said Dileep John, Eskom’s Head of Operation Khanyisa, the national campaign aimed at fighting electricity theft.

“Many might think it’s a victimless crime, only affecting Eskom. But this is not the case.

“The loss of revenue suffered by Eskom due to this crime contributes to the need for the national power utility to increase the tariffs charged to paying customers. The price for ghost vending is, therefore, paid by society as a whole,” John explained.

“So it is important that everyone helps kill the market for ghost vendors by refusing to buy illegal electricity vouchers and reporting suspected ghost vendors to Operation Khanyisa by sending anonymous tip-offs via SMS to 32211 (R1/SMS),” he added.

The arrest took place while another major case involving ghost vending was underway at the Palm Ridge Regional Court, also in Johannesburg.

The four accused now face a lengthy prison sentence after they were found guilty on over 16,000 counts related to electricity theft.

Eskom noted that sentencing in this case commences on 13 February 2017.