A suspect who was arrested on 26 May 2017 has appeared in a regional court on charges relating to tampering with Eskom meters on farms in the Bothaville and Viljoenskroon regions.
Gerhard Ferreira pleaded guilty to 14 charges of fraud and 10 charges of malicious damage to property. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment which is suspended for five years on the condition that he reimburses Eskom R921,830.88 (approx $70,000) worth of losses incurred by the company, payable by 31 December 2020.
Ferreira had offered to ‘calibrate meters’ for customers at a fee.
Following a tip-off, Eskom approached the Hawks, South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation which targets organized crime and economic crime, among others. They investigated the matter and eventually caught Ferreira red-handed on 26 May 2017. Customers who had paid Ferreira for his illegal services were charged tamper fines totalling R229,000 ($17,000).
Eskom has taken a hard line against tampering, appealing to the public to anonymously report electricity theft and seeing positive results. In June a 61-year old woman was arrested following an anonymous tip-off of an alleged illegal electricity connection in Sandton.
Eskom’s Security Investigations Department received information that a customer, who had been disconnected earlier for owing Eskom an estimated R500 000 ($37,500) for her residential property, was unlawfully reconnecting the property to the electricity network.
Upon arrival at the location, Eskom’s security team caught the customer in the act. She was arrested and appeared at a regional Magistrate’s Court on charges of tampering with essential infrastructure.
“Eskom appreciates the role played by the public in fighting illegal connections and infrastructure theft as this impacts power supply and overloads the system, which results in unplanned power outages. Customers who tamper with electricity not only risk electrocution to themselves, but also endanger the lives of innocent citizens and will be prosecuted. This arrest is by virtue of a joint effort between Eskom and SAPS which we believe will continue to bear fruitful outcomes. We will continue to work hard in bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to book,” said Eskom’s divisional executive for security, Tebogo Rakau.
Across the top 50 emerging economies, it is estimated that electricity theft exceeds $58.7 billion annually. In parts of South Africa, non-technical for Eskom are in the region of 8% and non-technical losses cost Eskom and local municipalities who are responsible for distribution approximately R15.2 billion (($1.1 billion) annually.