Eskom's senior manager for operations and maintenance, Daphne Mokoena, has said that some employees of the power utility have been connecting Soweto households to electricity illegally.
Eyewitness News released a report on Monday morning in which it spoke to an employee of Eskom who was helping Soweto households that failed to pay their light bills illegally re-connect to the system.
While Mokoena did not specifically comment on the Eyewitness News report, she confirmed that Eskom was in general dealing with employees who use their positions to illegally re-connect households for extra money.
"We do have some of our internal employees connecting customers illegally. Although the majority are not doing this, some cases have been found where we took action against them," Mokoena told Fin24.
Soweto households currently owe Eskom a combined R17bn in unpaid electricity bills.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni addressed the problem of non-payment for government services in his maiden Budget in February. While the minister did not specificlaly mentione Soweto and Eskom, he said that South Africas "need to build a strong culture of payment in our country".
"Collecting the revenue due to the state is the underlying foundation of our democracy, of building a nation, and it is our duty to pay for services especially if we can afford to do so," he said.
Mokoena said that two Eskom employees who were found to have offered illegal power connections were criminally charged three years ago. The two are currently released on parole.
"For us [facilitating illegal connections] is very serious misconduct, so it will include dismissal. We have our security department conduct further investigation. Where it warrants criminal investigations, we will do that in terms of Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill," Mokoena said.
And while illegal connections do not fall under the strict definition of sabotage in terms of the law, their impact did constitute vandalism, she said.
"Sabotage is mainly when people vandalise substations or cables stolen. Where there is illegal tampering, it is not sabotage, per se. But if it is done by our employees or anyone outside operating illegally [then] it is a way that the network is illegally operated," she said.
Mokoena said Eskom’s strategy to address illegal connections included the installation of outdoor smart meters in a secure box which was difficult to tamper with.
"The strategy we are implementing is installing an outside prepaid meter. It will be outside their home so that we can assess it. Some boxes that are installed have been tampered with and we want to be able to respond to cases of vandalism quicker," she said.
Mokoena urged all South African households to purchase electricity from legal, Eskom-registered vendors, adding that households found to have made an illegal connection could receive a fine of as much as R6 000.