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Farmers biggest electricity theft culprits

By Paul Ramaloko

Too often we hear about crimes committed against our farming community. One could recount the gruesome way our farmers are slain by criminals. We all stand against these barbaric attacks against our farming community.

Do we sometimes ask ourselves what these attacks are attributed to? I was so shocked to learn that farmers are responsible for 48% of electricity theft in South Africa. When thinking about farm workers who do not have access to electricity while their employers are acting against the law steeling government electricity, it is heart-rending.

This is indeed motivated by greed and our country’s economic development is delayed by this barbaric behaviour. It is indeed disgusting to hear that professional technicians and some Eskom employees are enticing farmers to engage in these illegalities, at a cost.

I always thought that farmers are very innocent and could not be associated with criminality of any kind. Little did I know that perpetrators of this crime are also motivated by the distance at which they are isolated from the majority.

It is disgusting that the majority are suffering because of the minority. It is understood that an investigation conducted revealed that 80% of farmers audited had their electricity meters tampered with; for how long it is not revealed. One will remember an announcement made by Eskom that there was an expected peak demand of 37,500 MW this winter, as compared to 36,970 MW last year. A challenge as our demand for electricity includes this 48% stolen by these culprits.

Considering the above, government is planning to build 9,600 MW of new nuclear capacity in the next two decades. These efforts will not address any electricity challenge if farmers stealing electricity are not facing the might of the law.

The level of greed displayed by farmers perpetrating this crime is flabbergasting. This happens while the state wants to ramp up nuclear sources to 20% of electricity capacity to help break the country’s massive reliance on coal from 90% to 65% and boost its ageing power grid that led to widespread blackouts that mostly started early in 2008. The reduction of electricity theft must be prioritised, as it is crippling our economy.

Theft of electricity is a prosecutable organised crime, which strikes right at the heart of our local communities, creating suffering and misery; while these insidious gangs are illegally pocketing government‘s money. Supposedly these criminals are trying to escape the National Energy Regulator’s three-years 25% annual electricity increase.

Considering that we are in the second year of the increases, one would expect these criminals to continue tampering with their electricity meters. It is encouraging to hear that endeavours are made by Eskom, Agri SA, Business Against Crime, Business Unity SA, Proudly SA and the SA Chamber of Commerce and the Police Service through Operation Khanyisa to eradicate this crime.

In the same breath that we protest when crimes are committed against our farming community, we must protest when crimes are committed by them. The National Maize Producers’ Organisation (Nampo) should play a role in educating our farming community on the dangers associated with electricity theft.

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