Electricity theft is a major issue in South Africa and the different kinds of the crimes are perpetrated by people from all works of life.
South Africa is said to be losing approximately R20 billion yearly due to electricity theft, three quarters of which is reported to be losses suffered by municipalities. Electricity theft is a global issue affecting a lot of countries around the world.
Crafty criminals have found sophisticated ways of stealing electricity in a number of ways.
Here are the six identified forms of electricity theft:
The forms of electricity theft include:
An electricity connection is considered illegal when it is made to the Eskom network without their permission. Examples are connecting to a mini-substation or overhead pole. Doing this poses great risk as it overloads the system, which often causes the power connection to trip or fail, meaning no one in the area would have electricity. It can also cause a fire.
Non-payment of tariffs
Some persons and organizations do not pay what they owe for electricity, which contributes to Eskom’s losses. Some systems have chronic non-payers—who know that their electricity will not be cut regardless of whether they pay or not.
Meter tampering and bypassing
Another popular form of electricity theft is when an electricity user bypasses their electricity meter for the purposes of not paying for their electricity use. This affects many communities around the country. A common practice is to tamper with the meter so that a lower reading of power use is shown than is the case.
Vandalism refers to the deliberate breaking and stealing covers and fences or damaging doors of meter boxes, sub-stations, mini sub-stations and any other Eskom property. This is usually done to either steal oil or cables or connect illegally to the Eskom network.
Transformer oil theft
People often steal oil from transformers at substations or on the network, which they use to fuel cars or other equipment. Some people even use this transformer oil for cooking, which is a serious health risk as it is a fuel oil and not a cooking oil.
The buying and selling of illegal prepaid vouchers
There have been several arrests for buying and selling of illegal prepaid vouchers. One of the most prominent arrests was alleged kingpin of a syndicate dealing in illegal prepaid electricity vouchers. He was granted R100 000 bail in the Mankweng Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo in 2014. The court heard that Marumo used phased out machines when selling electricity voucher to customers in Mankweng area and made a combined illegal profit of R264 600.