The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg this week sentenced four members of an electricity theft syndicate to a combined 42 years in prison.
The men were found guilty on 16 452 counts related to electricity theft.
Maphuthi Jeanette Chiliza (60) from De Deur, south of Gauteng, was found to be the kingpin of the syndicate that sold illegal prepaid electricity vouchers. Presiding Judge Leonie Windell sentenced Chiliza to serve 18 years in prison for managing a criminal enterprise, 12 years for participating in a criminal enterprise in the form of racketeering, 10 years for the theft of a prepaid electricity credit dispensing machine belonging to Eskom and 10 years for numerous counts of theft related to the illegal sale of electricity. Her sentences will run concurrently.
On 22 May Chiliza’s son, Nqobile Chiliza (25), was found guilty of participating in a criminal enterprise, theft of an Eskom credit dispensing machine and numerous counts of electricity theft – resulting in a sentence of an effective 12 years in prison.
The other co-accused in the case, Themba Dlamini (35) and Tlhaloganyo Matthews (30), who were “runners” for the syndicate and responsible for recruiting customers, were found guilty of participating in a criminal enterprise and electricity theft. They were each sentenced to an effective six years in prison.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the case,” said Tebogo Rakau, Divisional Executive for Security at Eskom.
“We hope this will send a strong message to all those involved in this crime that electricity theft is a serious criminal offence and, as can be seen from the sentences imposed by the judge in this case, that the law views it as such,” he said.
Despite the prospect of serving a long prison sentence, things can still get worse for the accused as state prosecutor Advocate Jacob Serepo launched an application for the court to review how the accused might have benefitted financially from their illegal activities.
If the court finds that the accused benefitted from their crimes, they could face asset forfeiture, including property and vehicles.
The accused were found guilty in December 2016 after a lengthy trial that started in 2012. Their bail was revoked after the court ruled against them, ensuring they remained in police custody until they were sentenced.
According to Rakau, Eskom loses approximately R4 billion each year due to electricity theft in its various forms including ghost vending, meter tampering and bypassing and illegal connections.
“We are grateful to the members of the public who have supported us in the fight against electricity theft by sending anonymous SMS tip-offs to Crime Line on 32211,” he said.