Eskom gets 880 soldiers for Christmas

 ·3 Nov 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has written to the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, informing the council that 880 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be deployed to help protect Eskom’s assets over the next six months.

The deployment is an extension of Operation Prosper – the initiative launched by the presidency to restore law an order in the country.

Operation Prosper was first launched in 2021 in collaboration with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to keep law and order during the 2021 July riots. The operation was launched again in December 2022 when soldiers were deployed to four power stations to protect them from criminals.

In January 2023, it was noted that over 2,700 SANDF members had been deployed to this task.

According to the president’s latest notice, 880 members will now be deployed for operation between 18 October and 31 March 2024.

The cost of the extended deployment is estimated to be R111 million, he said (roughly R125,000 per SANDF member).

“Members of the SANDF employed will continue to work in cooperation with the SAPS, to protect and safeguard national key points and critical infrastructure in the energy sector (ie, Eskom power stations),” he said.

Eskom has been under siege by criminals for years – from low-level opportunistic and petty thieves to complex and highly organised syndicates.

The list of criminal activities it has had to suffer is well documented, with coal theft, diesel theft, contract exploitation, high-level corruption and even threats of violence adding to the stresses.

In Eskom’s latest reporting, the group noted that over the 2022/23 financial year, it has been saddled with a massive R6 billion bill for “material losses” attributed to criminal activity.

This includes R344 million related to theft and damage to equipment, R81 million attributed to fraud and corruption and a whopping R5.6 billion linked to “non-technical losses”.

Eskom said that the non-technical losses of R5.6 billion is its estimate of losses attributed to electricity theft by communities and other similar incidents.

Read: Massive R24 billion loss for Eskom

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