27 October 2010
State power company Eskom has launched Operation Khanyisa, a campaign to reduce electricity theft – currently costing the country over R4-billion a year – and to change consumer behaviour so that more South Africans opt to become legal power users.
“Electricity theft is a major obstacle and is standing in our way of achieving [financial stability and capacity],” Eskom CEO Brian Dames said in Pretoria on Tuesday.
“Our overall losses as Eskom for the last financial year amount to R1.2-billion due to electricity theft. The country’s losses stand at R4.4-billion per year.”
Dames said that the problem cut across all sections of South African life, including residential and non-residential areas, and that the loss of R4.4-billion worth of electricity could electrify 350 000 homes.
He added that there was a need for legislation declaring electricity theft a serious crime.
“[The] government is in the process of reviewing the legislature for prosecution,” Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan told delegates at the launch of the operation.
Hogan commended Business Unity South Africa, Proudly South African and the SA Local Government Association (Salga) for partnering with Eskom on the campaign.
In his message of support for the initiative, President Jacob Zuma urged South Africans to support the campaign.
“Electricity theft affects each and every one of us,” Zuma said. “In the long term, it is detrimental to our economy and can contribute to job losses at a time when we must protect every job in our country.”
Municipalities loose out
Salga chief executive Xolile George said that though he did not have accurate figures, the country’s metropolitan municipalities account for the greatest proportion of loss due to theft. This also contributed to holes in municipal budgets.
The biggest problem of theft, according to Eskom, is predominantly in Gauteng province.
“In the next 12 months, we would like to see legislation against theft. We have prosecuted close to 20 people for petty crime. We need to strengthen legislation,” said Dames.