Johannesburg – Five people convicted for cable theft were on Monday collectively sentenced to 140 years behind bars, Eskom has announced.
The group was sentenced in the High Court, sitting in Kroonstad.
"The thefts occurred mainly in the Free State and Mpumalanga provinces affecting not only Eskom equipment, but Transnet, Telkom and local municipalities as well," Eskom said.
The suspects – Americo Njango, Thabo Mandlas, Orlando Mathebula, Themba Masiya and James Malope – were arrested on June 4 2014 following a tip off to police.
They were found in possession of 10 span overhead catenaries, which had been stolen in the Bosrand area in the Free State.
Syndicate's leader gets 48 years
Njango, who was believed to be the syndicate's leader, was sentenced to 48 years behind bars after being found guilty of eight counts of theft and one of organised crime.
Mandlas was handed a 44 year term of imprisonment on five counts of theft and one of organised crime while Mathebula was given 15 years for his single count of theft.
Masiya was handed 16 years for theft and Malope was given 17 years, also for a single count of theft.
Eskom said it lost over R2 billion a year to cable theft.
"We are taking steps to combat cable theft in collaboration with the joint industry working group formed by Eskom, Transnet, Telkom, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, Business Against Crime and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry," Eskom said.