Eskom Launches National Campaign Against Electricity Theft

Operation Khanyisa to smoke out izinyoka

Pretoria - Eskom is reclaiming the streets of South Africa by launching Operation Khanyisa, which is expected to reduce electricity theft.

"Electricity theft is a major obstacle and is standing in our way of achieving … (financial stability and capacity)," said Chief Executive Brian Dames on Tuesday, adding the utility was going to deal with it through Operation Khanyisa.

The operation is a national partnership campaign aimed at mobilising the country against electricity theft. Izinyoka is an isiZulu word meaning 'snakes', which is used to refer to electricity thieves.

It further aims to change consumer behavior so that they become legal power users instead of connecting power illegally.

"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," said Dames.

He said that the problem cuts across all sections of South African life, including residential and non- residential areas. The loss of R4.4 billion worth of electricity could electrify 350 000 homes.

"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 partners - which include Business Unity South Africa, Proudly South African and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) - who are involved in the establishment of 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. 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," he said.

Dames said there is a need for legislation declaring electricity theft as a crime.

SALGA CEO 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 contributes to holes in municipal budgets.

The biggest problem of theft, according to Eskom, is predominantly in Gauteng.

The utility spends a lot of money on its Energy Losses Management Programme (which includes Khanyisa). To date, it has been able to maintain energy losses of around 6 percent. Eskom hopes to see a reduction of this.

"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.

- BuaNews