Eskom decided to withdraw its services from Sibangweni village in the Eastern Cape following threats directed at employees.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/ALAMY
- Eskom said it had lost R285 million in the Eastern Cape between April and June 2022 due to electricity theft.
- An Eskom employee was threatened at gunpoint in Sibangweni village over the weekend while fixing meters that were tampered with.
- The power utility has withdrawn services to the village.
Eskom withdrew its services in Sibangweni village in the Eastern Cape after villagers threatened an Eskom technician at gunpoint over the weekend.
In a statement, the power utility said it was unable to operate and conduct necessary audits in the village due to acts of intimidation and threats against its employees.
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It said the Eskom coastal team attached to the Beacon Bay head office was dispatched to the area due to revenue losses caused by suspicious energy losses.
Eskom spokesperson Themba Mtshaulana added:
We recently had a situation where an Eskom employee was followed and threatened at gunpoint by community members who demanded that the employee reconnects supply that he disconnected due to tampering on the meter. The matter was reported to the South African Police Service, and we are grateful that the employee escaped unharmed.
After the incident, Eskom ordered all its employees to withdraw from the area.
The power utility told News24 a revenue loss of R285 million, caused by electricity theft in the Eastern Cape, had been recorded from April to June 2022.
The loss did not include the cost of replacing vandalised or damaged material caused by illegal connections or meter tampering.
It said it planned to fix vandalised meters and prevent illegal connections to stave off the losses but that the plan hit a snag due to the intimidation of employees.
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According to Mtshaulana, criminal behaviour directed at Eskom employees and continued energy losses in the area are viewed as a business risk.
“The matter has necessitated Eskom to take a decision of withdrawing its services in Sibangweni with immediate effect. Eskom will be engaging with the Nyandeni Local Municipality to find a lasting solution that will curb these seemingly increasing acts of intimidation and threats directed to Eskom employees,” Mtshaulana added.
The said illegal acts were discovered when technicians fixed faults in the various areas.
Mtshaulana said routine work in areas where there are energy losses is Eskom’s responsibility.
Electrical faults in areas plagued by illegal connections were most likely to occur due to network overload or meter tampering.
Another way that these are found is when concerned community members report suspected illegal connections and meter tampering. As part of normal operations, Eskom has a right and responsibility to remove illegally connected electricity users from the Eskom networks and evident tampering in affected areas.
“We also urge our communities to cooperate with Eskom to deal adequately with electricity-related matters,” Mtshaulana said.
According to the power utility, a criminal case was opened at the Mthatha Central police station after the employee was held at gunpoint in Sibangweni on Saturday. The matter will be transferred to the Libode police station.
Eastern Cape police could not immediately confirm that an investigation was under way.
Their comment will be added once received.