Friday, January 30, 2015

Operation Khanyisa Media Statement: 14 January 2015

The Operation Kyanisa website at http://www.operationkhanyisa.co.za/ carries an interesting article titled ` ELECTRICITY THIEF WHO OPERATED IN THE AGRI SECTOR RECEIVES SEVEN YEARS IN JAIL’.

The article reports that:

•    A man found guilty of providing electricity theft services to farmers across a number of provinces in South Africa has been sentenced to seven years in prison by the Lydenburg Magistrate Court.

Mondo Viljoen, who was found guilty in absentia in October 2014 on 21 charges related to electricity theft, was later apprehended and sentenced on 6 January after evading arrest since he was found guilty.

Viljoen’s sentencing is the culmination of an almost year-long trial that started in March last year when he first appeared in court, where his accomplice and eight farmers to whom he provided electricity theft services, including meter tampering and bypassing, turned state witness and testified against him. The farmers gave evidence against Viljoen, the main suspect in the case, who was part of a syndicate that provided electricity theft services. Viljoen faced 37 charges of damage to property, fraud and theft related to these crimes. The charges stem from tampers with meters on a number of farms across the country and at a hotel in Limpopo.  The case originated in Pongola, Kwa-Zulu Natal, but was consolidated in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga as the syndicate operated across these provincial borders.

During the trial, one of the farmers related to the court how he received an unsolicited visit from Viljoen, who then proceeded to tell him how he can reduce his electricity bill by up to 30% for a fee of R1 500.

As part of their plea bargain, the farmers had to pay revenue recovery charges to Eskom, which, for one of the farmers, came to R1.7 million. Tampers fees were also charged to all the farmers.

Maboe Maphaka, Senior Manager for Energy Trading and Sales Forecasting at Eskom, says the utility views electricity theft and the resultant energy and revenue losses in an extremely serious light – especially in view of the impact of this serious scourge on the already severely constrained power grid.  Maphaka urged the public not to be enticed into electricity theft practices through offers of ‘cheap’ power and warned that this is a serious crime and criminal prosecution will be brought against perpetrators on charges such as fraud, theft and racketeering.

“Revenue recovery will also be done by calculating the revenue loss suffered during a period of illegal usage and customers will be required to pay such revenue recovery.  As this could span several years, such recovery amounts could run into millions of Rands.  On top of this, disconnections will be done, and tamper fines currently between R6000 and R100 000 depending on size of supply, and reconnection fees will also be raised.”

The fight against electricity theft kicked into high gear over the past year as Operation Khanyisa, a national campaign aimed at fighting electricity theft, commenced implementation of its Customer Compliance Approach which takes a much stronger stance against electricity thieves across the country and across all customer sectors. The approach combines meter auditing, detection and investigations, and customer education and awareness, targeting hot spot areas with high energy and revenue losses.

According to Maphaka, the Customer Compliance Approach has had an immediate impact in curbing electricity theft in the implementation areas. In the two to three months of implementation in the Free State, the approach has led to the issuing of over R700 000 in tamper fines and the clearing of more than 14 000 illegal prepaid electricity units from customer meters in hot spot areas in the province.

Meanwhile the approach resulted in 137 000 customers now buying electricity legally in Limpopo, unlocking R34m a month in revenue for Eskom in the province.  During 2015/16, Operation Khanyisa will roll out the Customer Compliance Approach to other provinces as well.


Issued on behalf Operation Khanyisa

Email: mediaoffice@operationkhanyisa.co.za

Operation Khanyisa is a national partnership campaign aimed at mobilising South Africans towards legal, safe and efficient power use. The campaign is directed at all power users in the business, industry, commerce, agricultural sectors, and households in general.
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