He made a career out of breaking into people’s homes and stealing anything he could find.
Residents of Dealesville, near Bloemfontein, Mangaung warned him not to set foot in their yards again.
So the man decided to start stealing copper cables.
But that proved to be a deadly decision and he was electrocuted on Monday.
Witness Matshidi Mooi (41) said: “He was a thief but he didn’t deserve to die like that.
“On Monday night I was on my way to a local tavern when I saw him climbing a power pole.
“When I asked him what he was doing he told me to keep walking and mind my own business.
“A few minutes after I walked past him I saw a bright light that looked like a flash of lightning.
“When I looked back he was burning and smoke was rising from his body. I told my neighbours but it was too late.
“His clothes were burnt into his skin and his eyes had popped out of their sockets.
“The man died a painful death.
“I don’t know where he lives but I know he used to steal things to sell at the local scrapyard.
“He was trying to steal copper cables but ended up losing his life.”
Police spokesman Constable Maselela Lang said: “Cops opened an inquest docket after a 31-year-old man was electrocuted.”