Eskom at fault, yet Khumalos must pay for free electricity

Shorn Khumalo on eNCA talking about the electricity meter ordeal. (Photo: screengrab).
Shorn Khumalo on eNCA talking about the electricity meter ordeal. (Photo: screengrab).

Johannesburg – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Eskom wrongfully disconnected the Khumalo family’s power. However, the family still has to bear the financial burden for receiving unpaid electricity for two years, and they will not receive compensation for the six months they were without electricity.

In the report Who tampered? released on Tuesday, Madonsela and her team found that Eskom was at fault for wrongfully disconnecting electricity to the family’s home in Khayelitsha on February 29 2016. She criticised the power utility for not following due procedure, and for contravening the constitution.

Madonsela provided recommendations to be followed by Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa). But the family’s concern is that they will not be receiving financial compensation for the six months they were without electricity.

“I am grateful that the public protector took on our case and defended us. But the public protector has not addressed what should happen for the six months we were without electricity,” said Shorn Khumalo, the son of Simone Khumalo who is the head of the household.

Fin24 previously reported that the Khumalo family was fined R12 000 by Eskom for tampering with their meter. The public protector found that this tampering fee was incorrectly imposed and should be reversed.

Her report showed that Eskom failed to attend to Simone Khumalo’s call as far back as September 4 2013 to correct a faulty meter which was not allowing her to load prepaid electricity credit, providing her with free electricity.

Eskom dispatched a technician after the complaint was logged, but the technician arrived at the home when no one was around. The technician left and closed the log, without fixing the meter. After 26 months, Eskom disconnected the family’s electricity on February 29 2016.

READ: Family suing Eskom ordered to pay 2 years fees – Phasiwe

The public protector recommended that Eskom restore electricity supply, which the power utility did on September 5. Eskom is also to put in place mechanisms to prevent similar incidents occurring in future, and should revise its Standard Operating Protocol to ensure incidents are conclusively resolved from now on. Disciplinary action is to be taken against technicians who “abandon” reported incidents, the report stated.

“We respect the office of the public protector and we will implement the recommendations,” said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe. Action is to be taken with immediate effect.

“We will emphasise to technicians and staff to follow the standard procedures,” he added.

Nersa is to appoint an independent person to determine how much the family should pay for the two years they received free electricity. Phasiwe said that the fee was not within its portfolio.  

But Shorn Khumalo told Fin24 that he was “disgruntled” by the recommendation that the family pay back Eskom. “We (Eskom and the family) were both at fault, both of us should take responsibility,” he said.

Shorn said that as a result of having to attend to the “Eskom saga”, as he called it, he lost his job as an information assistant because of absenteeism.

ALSO READ: Lights on, but Eskom battle goes on, vow Khumalos

Shorn contacted Advocate Livhuwani Tshiwalule, part of the public protector’s team, to follow up on the recommendations, but has not received any response. Eskom reconnected power but did not apologise, said Shorn.


Shorn Khumalo said that he has not had a response from the public protector's officer regarding his complaints that the family is not being financially compensated. This is a screenshot of a direct message correspondence with Advocate Thuli Madonsela. (Supplied)

He said the family should be financially compensated for costs incurred unnecessarily, such as buying paraffin to fuel their gas stove. “We had never run away from paying for the electricity we used in the two years,” he added.

“I am disgruntled as I sit here,” he said. Unsure about the next step to take, Shorn said he was advised to get help from a pro bono attorney to take up the family's case.

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