The deployment of 880 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members at Eskom power stations is set to cost South Africa over R146 million.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week ordered army personnel to be stationed at power stations as theft and sabotage add to the inability of state-owned utility Eskom to meet electricity demand.
880 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members will be deployed at stations around the country until Oct. 17. 2,700 members were previously deployed from March 17 through April 17.
The new deployment will cost taxpayers R165,909 per soldier and R27,651 per soldier per month.
Andre de Ruyter, the former head of South Africa’s state power utility, estimated the amount of money stolen from Eskom at R1 billion a month.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa in April announced plans to limit power cuts — including addressing criminality and reducing infrastructure sabotage at Eskom.
The SANDF is expected to work with the South African Police Services (SAPS) to prevent and combat crime under Operation Prosper.
R146 million is the expected deployment expenditure, with costs likely to run over the budgeted amount.
Eskom’s head of security Karen Pillay told BusinessDay last week these initiatives have not deterred brazen criminals.
Pillay said there were 35 incidents reported in March alone. “These incidents include cable theft, common theft, theft of diesel and malicious damage to property with an intent to steal”, Pillay said.
Criminals have also been targeting substations for years. City Power spent R380 million from last December until February to repair vandalised electricity infrastructure.
City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena told TimesLIVE 444 cases of cable theft were reported from December until February, an average of about five cases a day.
January accounted for the highest number of cable thefts, with 202 reported cases.