Double load-shedding as transformer and electricity infrastructure theft reaches crisis levels

Issued by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP – DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises
27 Feb 2024 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP.

In addition to Eskom’s ruinous load-shedding schedules which have resulted in South Africans spending more and more time in the dark, the theft of critical electricity infrastructure has reached crisis levels across the country.

This was revealed in a written response, to a DA parliamentary question, on the number of cases of theft and/or vandalism to electricity infrastructure reported between 2018 and 2023.

According to the written response by the Department of Public Enterprises, between 2018 and 2023, over 44,000 cases of transformer and other electricity infrastructure theft were reported. On average, this represents 24 incidents of theft and vandalism per day over the last 5 years.

On electricity transformers alone, 232 were reported stolen in the 5-year period under review, representing a cumulative direct loss of R18 million.

The four hardest hit provinces by this electricity infrastructure carnage include Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. This means that residents in these provinces are statistically spending more time in the dark, in addition to the regular load shedding from Eskom.

The least affected Province is the DA-governed Western Cape where transformer theft only amounted to R85 000 over the past 5 years compared to R8 million in Limpopo. The same is true for the overall electricity infrastructure vandalism, with the Western Cape experiencing less incidents in comparison to other provinces.

By taking a proactive approach to protect its electricity infrastructure and swiftly responding to acts of criminality, the Western Cape has started to turn the tide against infrastructure vandalism. In 2022, the City of Cape Town announced that it will spend R40-million on securing critical electricity infrastructure via the boosting of security patrols in hotspot areas and the deployment of permanent security to protect strategic electricity infrastructure.

In comparison, Police Minister Bheki Cele has spoken about the establishment of task teams that would fight cable theft and the vandalism of critical electricity infrastructure. However, the impact of these task teams in turning the tide against the vandalism of electricity infrastructure has been non-existent.

Based on the extent of the crisis, it is clear that the ANC government has simply lost the war against electricity infrastructure vandals and criminals.

The increasing intensity of this type of criminality further confirms that there is a thriving black market for stolen transformers and other critical electricity infrastructure and law enforcement agencies are simply not doing enough to stop it or arrest the perpetrators.