City unplugs power thieves

2010-08-13 00:00

SMALL business owners in the lower end of the CBD had a rude awakening yesterday when representatives of the Msunduzi Municipality launched a surprise crackdown on illegal connections.

Members of the intervention team, politicians, senior officials and representatives of the municipality’s electricity, water, environmental health and credit control departments joined forces on a walkabout through Masukwana Street yesterday, inspecting several businesses for illegal water and electricity connections.

Intervention team member Ben Dorfling pointed out a well-known supermarket that owes the municipality about R100 000 for electricity but is operating as usual.

“They last paid in 2008,” he said.

When one meter box was pried open, acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko said it was obvious that the meter is being by-passed. It was “disconnected just before we got here because they heard we were coming”, he said.

Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr lifted an electricity box on the pavement and said it is clear that it had been tampered with because it was meant to be locked.

The electricity department’s planning manager, Maxwell Mthembu, said they came across a case where five businesses were drawing power from one electricity box.

Mthembu said they met a contractor on Wednesday who confessed to illegally connecting people but added that there are problems with the municipality’s billings because some consumers are being charged only R5.

“Even meter readers are not reporting this,” he said.

Mthembu said there are also instances where people are changing breakers so that they can get unlimited power.

A frustrated Dorfling remarked that there is hardly any building in that area that is legally connected. He said it is estimated that about 95% of buildings are illegally connected.

One building claimed to have no electricity, but when Dorfling opened the fridge, he found cold beer and ice in the freezer section.

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert said: “I’ve lived in Maritzburg all my life and my father before me and my grandfather came in 1896 and I’ve never ever seen anything so corrupt and dishonest as what we’re seeing this morning.

“This is the most depressing day I’ve ever had.”

Tarr said electricity theft is so rife in the area that the few people who actually pay for electricity are laughed at and regarded as a joke.

Protesting transgressors were slapped with R250 000 reconnection fees on the spot as curious onlookers gathered around the Msunduzi team and watched them moving from shop to shop.

Yesterday marked the third day of the blitz through Masukwana and Berg streets. 

Before the checks, Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler said that of the 17 businesses they had inspected on Tuesday, only two had legal connections. Of the 19 businesses seen on Wednesday, in only one was the connection legal.

Mettler told the executive committee that the total amount expected to be paid in reconnection fees from Tuesday’s inspections alone is about R4 million.

The estimated amounts to be collected after the crackdowns on Wednesday and yesterday were not available at the time of going to print.

During the blitz, deputy mayor Jabu Ngubo said the city’s finances would be rectified in no time if they kept fining transgressors in this way.

Fines for transgressors start from R250 000 and go up to R500 000 for repeat offenders.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.