NEARLY R70 million – that is the cost Eskom has suffered repairing its network due to theft and vandalism since April last year.
Illegal connections, cable theft and vandalism in parts of greater Cape Town have left communities prolonged periods without electricity, often causing the public to take to the streets in protest to voice their frustration.
Eskom has noted an increase in electricity theft, especially in high density areas, which leads to the failure of its equipment.
The power utility said Atlantis, Bardale/Mfuleni, Bloekombos, Blue Downs, Crossroads, Delft, Driftsands, Du Noon, Khayelitsha, Nomzamo/Somerset West, Marikana/Phillipi, Rooidakke/Grabouw, Wallacedene, Wesbank and Witsand have been identified as high risk areas rife with illegal connections, cable theft and vandalism.
Eskom staff have at times been targeted and robbed at gunpoint while responding to theft and vandalism.
In the latest incident, Eskom employees came under attack from 10 men when responding to a vandalised electric terminal box metres from the SA.MAST Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha.
The driver, after being robbed of his work cellphone and attacked by the men, managed to free himself and fled the scene in another repair vehicle. The vehicle left behind was torched.
Police say cases of pointing a firearm and malicious damage to property were registered at Lingelethu SAPS for investigation. No arrest has been made as yet.
Since November 2019 until May 2021, there have been nine reported incidents of criminal activities where staff were attacked, Eskom said.
“It is believed that there are many more incidents that are not reported for the safety of staff who have to return to these areas to render services.
“The most recent reported incident happened on May 29, 2021, when an Eskom employee was held up at gunpoint. Fortunately, he escaped unharmed with the assistance of his colleagues. However, when returning to the scene to retrieve equipment, the Digger loader he was operating was torched and vandalised,” Eskom provincial spokesperson Kyle Cookson said.
“Previous violent attacks and vandalism to vehicles have forced Eskom to evacuate staff working or travelling in these areas and dispatching them when it is safe for them to return and continue repairs.
“Unfortunately this could result in prolonged durations without electricity supply, but the safety of staff will always be a top priority and where there is any threat of violence or harassment, Eskom will have to temporarily withdraw its services,” said Cookson.
From April last year until now, Eskom in the Western Cape incurred costs of R69 million to repair the network owing to theft and vandalism alone, he said.
The power utility has launched a communication campaign to engage community leaders, councillors and other stakeholders to find solutions to protect the Eskom network and staff to ensure the continuity of supply.
“Many times theft, vandalism and illegal connections are perpetrated by individuals known to the affected communities. They are not only endangering the infrastructure, but also the communities they are stealing from. We urge communities to work with Eskom to arrest these incidents and report individuals involved in these illegal activities,” said the Eskom general manager for distribution Cape Coastal Cluster.
Communities have been requested to report theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure and illegal connections to Crime Stop on 08600 1011 or to Eskom’s Crime Line on 0800 112 722, alternatively SMS 32211.