Power theft costs municipality millions

2016-08-25 06:00
Electricity cables connected from a pole on the border of Belvedere and Gwala’s Farm informal settlement. Photo: andile sithole

Electricity cables connected from a pole on the border of Belvedere and Gwala’s Farm informal settlement. Photo: andile sithole

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ELECTRICITY theft costs eThekwini Municipality more than R150 million to fix the damaged meter boxes and replace the vandalised infrastructure.

This is according to the head of communications in eThekwini Municipality Tozi Mthethwa.

Mthethwa warned North Coast residents to stop stealing electricity and the municipality must be able to make arrests, but cases were dropped due to a lack of substantial evidence.

“eThekwini Municipality has made several arrests with the help of the police­. However, cases are often dropped due to the lack of tangible evidence. The city continuously conducts multidisciplinary operations with law enforcement in order to remove illegal electricity connections.

“These operations are conducted regularly in all areas where we have received reports of illegal connections.

“Electricity theft has led to devastating and tragic consequences such as loss of lives as well as damage to infrastructure costing the municipality approximately R150 million annually.

“The negative impacts of illegal electricity connections include the hefty costs of replacement of infrastructure, hiring security and the shutdown of business operations,” she said.

In a statement sent to the Weekly Mthethwa said acts of vandalism taking place in the north of Durban and other areas cannot be addressed by the municipality and the police alone.

“The community must not look away when we know our relatives, neighbours and friends are involved in these illicit activities,” she said.

Residents in Belvedere are already feeling the effects of electricity theft as the area is in darkness most of the time due to illegal connections.

Belvedere is on the border that separates Tongaat suburbs and Gwala’s Farm informal settlement.

Sihle Xulu (37), a Belvedere resident, said: “As a ratepayer I am deeply concerned with mushrooming of electricity theft in Belvedere.

“For the past five weeks I have had no electricity in my house. We report electricity theft to the municipality offices at Sizakala Centre in Tongaat, but there is no action from the municipality.

“My house was broken into because criminals find it easy to strike in the dark. My TV, home theatre system and clothes were stolen.

“Recently, an electricity meter box exploded and the entire street was left in darkness.

“I have to wake up early in the morning and bath with cold water. We appeal to the municipality and the police to send officials every week to remove illegal connections, and the perpetrators must be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

Xulu said he paid R1 500 earlier this month to have the electricity restored at his house, but nothing happened.

Belvedere residents are apparently at loggerheads with the Gwala’s Farm residents who are being accused of electricity theft.

Residents in Douglas Road, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, told Weekly that some of the residents in Gwala’s Farm make their illegal connections in broad daylight.

“Gwala’s Farm informal settlement has been electrified and I suppose everybody­ got electricity. However, some of the dwellers are unwilling to pay for electricity so illegal connections work better for them,” he said.

Ward councillor Dolly Munien said her office has been inundated with complaints from residents reporting electricity theft.

“It is shocking to note that some people­ are still stealing electricity. The matter has been reported to eThekwini Municipality and we hope to get feedback and a solution on the current problem,” she said.

Police spokeswoman in Tongaat Warrant Officer Manisha­ Maharaj-Marie said: “Police conduct operations in the area and disconnect electricity cables in Gwala’s Farm.

“In most cases suspects are arrested, appear in court and a fine is imposed.

“Electricity theft is an issue that has been going on in Tongaat for years despite numerous efforts made by the police, Eskom and eThekwini Municipality­ to curb illegal connections,” she said.

Residents can report suspicious activities to:
Electricity call centre on 080 131 3111, SMS 083 700 0819 or email custo mercare@elec.
durban.gov.za

Cable theft hotline on 031 311 9611

Metro police on 031 361 0000.

If you have been a victim of electricity theft and would like to share your story, call Andile Sithole on 031 945 2903.

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