Cape Town, South Africa --- (METERING.COM) --- October 22, 2008 - Millions of rands' worth of prepaid electricity units are reported to have been sold illegally, following the theft of prepayment credit dispensing units (CDUs) belonging to the national utility, Eskom.

In response to a question in parliament from Democratic Alliance MP Manie van Dyk, the Minister for Public Enterprises, Brigitte Mabandla, replied that of the 1,800 CDUs, in the past three years 52 have been stolen and of these eleven had been recovered.

"From the recovered CDUs, some indicate that millions of rands of prepaid electricity units have been sold," the minister said. However, it is not possible to quantify the full monetary loss.

The minister explained that the units were designed to operate independently because remote data communications were not available when the national utility Eskom started vending 20 years ago.

"Although safety features were built in over time, illegal manipulation of stolen CDUs can result in ongoing vending until the equipment physically fails," Mabandla said, adding that Eskom has moved to a more secure online vending system, and is busy closing most offline CDUs, thus removing any future risk of misuse and financial losses.

The minister said that forensic investigations conducted in the past have linked some Eskom staff to this theft, with resultant disciplinary measures taken against the employees in question.