Huge bills explained — at last

2013-07-22 00:00

The woman, who initially spoke to The Witness, has gone to ground, too terrified of neighbours to say more.

For months she had been getting extremely high bills and all her efforts to address the matter came to nothing. However, when one of the pipes in the village sprung a leak and a worker from the water department was almost electrocuted, the truth was finally discovered.

Municipal workers went to fix the burst pipe and saw sparks coming from the water that had pooled under the leak. The electricity department was contacted and they disconnected the power and dug around the pipe, this was when they discovered cables leading from the woman’s house to a neighbour’s home.

Ward councillor Philani Ngidi took up the story. He said more than one household could be implicated because when the sparks were coming from the water, power tripped in three to four surrounding houses.

Ngidi said the police had been called and a case of theft had been opened and he had been assured by the electricity department that the matter would be thoroughly investigated.

“I cannot understand because when we hold community meetings we talk about electricity theft, yet this problem seems to persist everywhere in Pietermaritzburg. Hopefully this incident and the municipality’s drive to deal with the problem will help us see an end to this scourge,” Ngidi said.

Two weeks ago Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi announced a battle plan to deal with electricity theft. Members of the Executive Committee were told that for the first time in 18 years the city was losing money on electricity, having previously always made a profit from its electricity sales.

Exco heard that the loss was in the region of between R15 and R18 million a month and 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.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma was asked if the woman would be entitled to some form of compensation for subsidising her neighbour’s electricity usage. He said that unfortunately council could not pay any compensation and that the culprit would be liable to pay whatever was deemed necessary. “The outcome of our investigation into theft can be used in her favour should it be a positive outcome and pinpoint the culprit,” Zuma said.

He warned residents to be alert. “If all of a sudden your electricity bill shoots up and your consumption patterns have not changed, you must be suspicious. Report the matter to us so that we can investigate,” he said.

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