South Africa's Eskom to reduce power cuts but long-term outlook bleak

A former consultant of Inkitha Royal Empire Construction, John Tazvivinga, has been sentenced to five years by the Mthatha Specialized Commercial Crime Court for tampering with Eskom infrastructure.

Eskom disclosed the information on Thursday, revealing that Tazvivinga falsely claimed to be an Eskom contractor to residents of Marhambeni in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, during an incident between 2015 and 2016.

The power utility reported a financial loss of R231,000 due to the incident. The court found Tazvivinga guilty under Section 3(1) of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act 18 of 2015. He received a five-year prison sentence, which is suspended for five years, provided he avoids committing a similar offense during that period.

The company was fined R10,000. Eskom's Acting General Manager for Security Botse Sikhwitshi strongly condemned any impersonation of Eskom's business and staff, emphasizing zero tolerance for such actions.

"Eskom strongly condemns, and will not tolerate, any impersonation of its business and staff by anyone," Sikhwitshi said, as per the official statement. "We are thankful to the internal security investigations and the Specialized Commercial Crime Investigation teams for their collaborative efforts over the years."

He added, "While the sentence may not be as severe as Eskom had hoped, it serves as a reminder to potential criminals contemplating tampering with critical infrastructure and stealing electricity, contravening Section 3(1) of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act 18 of 2015, which could lead to a maximum prison term of 30 years."

Sikhwitshi further mentioned that the conviction is part of Eskom's efforts to increase convictions, which have doubled from 11 to 22 in the financial year 2023/24 compared to the previous year.

Eskom urged the public to report illegal activities such as selling electricity illegally, fraud and theft of coal, fuel oil, diesel and copper cables. Reports can be made anonymously through the Eskom Crime Line at 0800 11 27 22 or via WhatsApp at 081 333 3323.

Last month, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa lauded Eskom for ensuring there is no load shedding over the last 54 days across South Africa. The minister noted that the country is witnessing an exceptionally improved energy situation and credited Eskom for making efforts on its part.