During the Annual South African Revenue Protection Association (SARPA) meeting, Eskom announced plans to combat the buying and selling of illegal prepaid electricity vouchers, commonly known as ghost vending. 

R4.1 billion in revenue is lost each year by Eskom as a result of electricity theft.

Says Maboe Maphaka, Eskom senior manager: Energy Trading and Sales Forecasting, “Ghost vending is a contributor to these losses. While illegal connections and meter tampering are still the leading forms of electricity theft, the buying and selling of illegal prepaid electricity vouchers has sharply increased and is taking root in many parts of the country.”

The programme, a new way of investigating electricity theft, incorporates technical meter auditing, supported by an on-site investigations team, criminal investigation and prosecution and has been in pilot phase in Limpopo for the past year

As a result of this new approach, he said, a large number of ghost vending incidents, as well as other forms of electricity theft, were uncovered in many towns in the province. This led to the issuing of numerous fines amounting to almost R3,7 million. More than half of this – over R1,8 million, has already been paid to Eskom while the rest will be received through payment arrangements made with the customers. The investigating teams also removed 940 669.49 ghost units from prepaid meters in the province, protecting R1 338 722.83 worth of revenue that could have been lost.

815 households and 200 businesses were disconnected in the same period. In the process, 21 ghost vending-related arrests were made and 12 cases opened. 15 people were also arrested for illegal connections and meter tampering. “Most importantly though,” said Maphaka, “we have now been more successful in tracking down and catching the actual people who offer electricity theft services, like the suspected leader of a syndicate that deals in ghost vending who is due to appear again in court on 31 July after he was granted R100,000 bail.”

“The new approach has been highly successful and will now be implemented nationwide by Eskom’s various Operating Units across all nine provinces.”