Shock for power thieves

2013-06-21 00:00

A BATTLEPLAN has been hatched to smash the syndicates stealing and selling electricity in Pietermaritzburg.

There will also be new surcharges for tampering with electricity meters and no mercy shown to contractors who illegally reconnected power to residents who had been disconnected because of non-payment.

Yesterday, Msunduzi Executive Committee (Exco) members were shocked to learn that their city was running its electricity service at a loss. The municipality was paying more to Eskom than it recovered from electricity users in the city, they heard.

In March 2013 the city paid R144 million to Eskom. Of this amount R891 000 went for street lighting and the rest was used by residents. However, the municipality only received payment of R124 million from residents for electricity usage. This was a loss of over R18 million, or 12,9%. Exco members found that in the past 10 months the municipality lost on average 10,3% of its outlay to Eskom as a result of the electricity theft.

Mayor Chris Ndlela said the council was reaching a point where it could no longer sustain these losses.

The municipality had proposed a 10% electricity tariff increase in its latest budget. This was to fund the city’s huge maintenance backlog and the network rehabilitation plan.

If the theft continued with impunity, the tariff increase would only cover the losses caused by electricity thieves.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi did not want to go into detail about the clampdown, as he did not want the syndicates going into hiding.

“We are onto them and we are doing something,” was all he was willing to say.

The Witness reported earlier this week that syndicates were running their own illegal electricity departments, stealing power from the grid, illegally connecting homes and charging their own tariffs of R50 a week.

Nkosi said they would also pursue contractors who were employed by the municipality to do disconnections and reconnections, but who instead cheated the system.

He said most months saw between 1 000 and 3 000 disconnections for non-payment of electricity. Yet less than a third of these consumers paid for reconnection. In one month there were 2 577 disconnections yet only 744 residents paid for reconnections, he said.

On investigation they had learnt that certain contractors were doing the disconnections for the council during the day and returning to the dwelling to illegally re-connect the supply for a fee of R200.

Yesterday, Exco approved new surcharges for tampered meters.

As a result of the municipality going under administration, tampered meters were removed and only replaced if the owner paid R13 000.

Exco accepted that this amount was prohibitive and created more of a debt problem for the city.

• The new charges for the reinstatement of meters after they have been tampered with are:

Domestic:

First time offender — R4 000

Second time offender — R5 500

Each offence thereafter — R7 000

Business:

First time — R20 000

Second time — R35 000

Thereafter — R50 000

In addition, the disconnection system would be tightened to prevent cheating.

There would be stricter enforcement-reporting to the police and periodic spot checks to catch culprits.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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