Eskom softens blow on farmers
Pretoria - Over the past year Eskom has disconnected power from 10 000 illegal electricity consumers and recovered R6m from people guilty of illegal electricity connections.
On Friday the parastatal also withdrew a statement that farmers were the biggest culprits in terms of stealing electricity.
Earlier this year Eskom had said that farmers were responsible for large-scale electricity theft. This accusation caused large-scale discontent in the farming community.
Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said the earlier statement had simply been a misinterpretation of the data.
In the first place, she said, the agricultural sector used a mere 3% of South Africa’s power and, whether this was measured in terms of monetary loss or gigawatt hours, electricity theft among farmers was not at all substantial.
AgriSA deputy chief executive Theo de Jager said that Eskom owed the agricultural industry a huge apology.
Eskom had dropped the bombshell during the Nampo Harvest Day (the biggest meeting of farmers in South Africa), claiming that farmers were stealing electricity. It had been a long time since farmers and agricultural organisations had been so upset. Farmers heard the announcement with disbelief and said it was impossible for farmers to steal that much electricity.
De Jager said Eskom’s contention that the agricultural sector was among the major electricity thieves had caused the industry “astronomical” harm. He said AgriSA was greatly relieved to hear that Eskom had reconsidered the matter.
Joffe said the agricultural sector had however been responsible for just under half the “incidents” involving large-scale South African electricity consumers where electricity meters and equipment had been tampered with.
She said the company regretted any misunderstanding that might have led to unhappiness in the agricultural sector. Eskom was prepared to meet representatives of the sector if there were any further uncertainties they wished to discuss with the power utility.
She said Eskom had been trying to make the point that theft of electricity was not only a township problem.
Medium to large electricity consumers are responsible for almost 60% of turnover lost by Eskom as a result of electricity theft. Residential consumers account for the other 40%, she said.