President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered the deployment of 880 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to protect Eskom power stations across the country.

SANDF members are deployed at power stations because of theft and sabotage cases that are increasing the load-shedding problem in South Africa.

According to the statement issued over the weekend, President Ramaphosa informed Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Amos Masondo that SANDF members will work with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to prevent and combat crime.

"Members of the SANDF employed will assist the SAPS in protecting Eskom power stations around the country where sabotage, theft, and other crimes may threaten the functioning of power stations and the supply of electricity," the statement mentioned, SANews reported.

It revealed that the deployment started on April 17 and will continue till Oct. 17.

Previously, the presidency disclosed that 2,700 SANDF members were sent to power stations to assist SAPS to protect the Eskom power stations under Operation Prosper from March 17 to April 17.

"The current employment is authorized in accordance with the provisions of Section 201(2) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996," the statement added, noting that the expected expenditure for this exercise is more than R146 million.

Former CEO of Eskom energy company, André de Ruyter disclosed last month that nearly one billion rand is being "stolen" every month.

"This is, if anything, a conservative estimate and is based on my assessment of the losses suffered by Eskom that have come to my attention," he said on April 26, IOL reported.

Andre Marinus de Ruyter, who served as the CEO of Eskom from December 2019 to December 2022, claimed in February there was a high level of corruption in the company.

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, on the other hand, turned down those allegations in March and said all the load-shedding problems are technical. Minister Ramokgopa was appointed as electricity minister on March 1 by President Ramaphosa.

Last week, a former Eskom official named Nwabisa Ngxola, who worked as an administrative clerk was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for defrauding the power utility of R2.6 million.

Ngxola was accused of 114 charges including fraud, theft, and money laundering along with businessman Michael Chimanzi and Eskom finance clerk Cinderella Moropane.

Considering the load-shedding problem in the country, the electricity minister advised citizens to switch off geysers to help cut load-shedding stages in March. He also suggested that there won't be any improvement in certain power stations before November.

As of now, the country is facing Stage 3 and Stage 4 of load shedding.

"Due to lower weekend demand and the return to service of some generating units, Stage 3 and 4 load shedding will be implemented this weekend," Eskom's official website mentioned on May 5.

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