Five more nabbed in Rustenburg for illegal sale of pre-paid electricity
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RUSTENBURG – Five more people were arrested in connection with the illegal sale of pre-paid electricity on Thursday, the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) said.
Hawks spokesperson in the Free State, Captain Christopher Singo said the five aged between 36 and 47 years were arrested in Rustenburg, in the early hours of Thursday by the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation team based in Bethlehem, Free State.
“Their arrests were effected during the third phase of the project-driven investigation carried out by the Hawks in Free State, in concert with Eskom investigators.
“This project-driven investigation began in May 2020 in Bloemfontein, Free State probing the illicit sale of electricity facilitated by illegal vendors who have in their possession illegal electricity vending machines,” he said.
The project probes the illicit sale of electricity called “ghost vending”.
The five were expected to appear in the Fochville Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
In August, 10 other people aged between 34 and 54 years were arrested in Bethlehem and Senekal in Free State during the second phase of the project driven investigation carried out by the Hawks in the Free State and Eskom investigators.
They were allegedly responsible for selling illegal electricity to pre-paid customers.
“The illegal practice of selling prepaid electricity results in multi-million rand losses to Eskom per annum. This loss of revenue and the increase in non-technical losses contributes significantly to the electricity woes of the country,” Captain Singo said at the time.
Several gadgets, electricity pre-paid vouchers and book keeping records of customers were seized for further investigation.
The syndicates reportedly operate in groups nationally and generate income of approximately R150 000 to R250 000 a day from illicit sales of electricity.
Residents in Lethabong near Rustenburg, were unable to purchased prepaid electricity coupons earlier in September as their meter numbers were blocked, in a move in which they suspected Eskom was trying to sniff-out those who were buying illicit electricity, commonly known as “R350” in the township lingo.
The name was derived from the R350 paid for this sale, which has high units lasting up to six months.
Residents whose meter numbers were blocked spent three weeks going to the local community hall, where a local councillor Koketso Morei, was attempting to resolve the problem.
They were eventually given numbers to unblock the meter box and were able to buy prepaid electricity.
Approached for comment on what could have led to the problem in Lethabong, two weeks ago, Eskom said it was investigating the matter.