Msunduzi sniffs out illegal electricity

2010-06-18 00:00

BUSINESSES in Manchester Road were again plunged into darkness yesterday after municipal officials switched their electricity off because of alleged illegal connections.

These alleged illegal connections have, according to Ben Dorfling, a member of the provincial intervention team, been going on undetected for years.

The switch-off blitz, headed by Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr, targeted more than 37 shops in a complex in Manchester Road that had connec­ted electricity illegally.

Tarr said: “The situation is out of control and vigorous steps will be taken by us as this calls for an emergency council meeting.”

Upon further scrutiny of the businesses, it was also established that some of them had illegally connected water. In one of the shops it was discovered that the water meter had been intricately tampered with to fail to register usage.

Process manager for electricity Maxwell Mthembu said it was discovered last year that the municipality has been losing money on the electricity account. He said 10%, or R60 million, of supplied electricity was not paid for.

Mthembu said that 80% of the first 50 businesses scrutinised were guilty of illegal connections.

Last week, The Witness reported that some businesses in Manchester Road were being billed between 10c and R7,94 a month for electricity. Some were not even billed at all, while others were supposedly owed money by the municipality when they had not paid for electricity in years.

Municipal sources who wished to remain anonymous said the municipality needs to have stringent measures in place to ensure that those disconnected are not improperly reconnected.

Sources said that after last week’s switch-off, they were instructed by an employee in the council’s finance section to reconnect electricity using ordinary meters instead of the recommended bulk meter system.

About the connections at the 37 shops, Mthembu said: “This is a professional and undoubtedly underground job”, explaining that the illegal electricity connections are not only the result of tampering with meters, but of fiddling with electricity wiring underground.

Sources are adamant that these businesses have an insider who fixes their electricity bills.

The Witness has learnt that random electricity checks on businesses will be conducted in the central business district.

Tarr said more investigations are to be undertaken and culprits will be charged as the municipality reclaims control of the city.

He warned businesses to expect the team to pay them a visit at any time.

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