Impose harsher sentences for electricity theft - Eskom

Parliament - If Eskom has its way, "izinyoka" - the isiZulu word for snakes - who steal electricity will have to pay up to R60 000 in penalties.

The entity proposed that stealing electricity be added as a new offence to the criminal matters amendment bill and that it should carry heavy penalties.

Presenting its arguments on the first day of public hearings into the bill, Eskom’s Neo Tsholanku detailed the losses it suffered through electricity theft.

The bill proposes criminalising the unlawful and intentional tampering with, and the damaging or destroying of, essential infrastructure - and provides for the imposition of severe penalties, including up to 30 years in jail.

Eskom wants the penalties added to the bill.

Tsholanku proposed that first offenders pay R15 000, R30 000 for second offences, and R60 000 for third and other offences.

"The intention is not to send grandmas to prison. We are not taking away [the] discretion of presiding officers, because we know and understand that some of the people that we find tampering are old grannies who don’t do it themselves... So the intention is not to send them to prison, but to at least punish them."

The entity said amendments to the bill would result in the ability to criminally prosecute electricity theft.

The sentiment was echoed by the South African Local Government Association, which also proposed that theft of services, including water, be added as a new offence.

Legal Aid, however, said some of the sentences in the bill were too harsh.

"The imposition of discretionary minimum sentences for essential infrastructure-related offences is a severe form of punishment."

Members of Parliament encouraged Legal Aid to come up with solutions, instead of criticising the bill.

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