Electricity theft: No more Mr Nice Guy, Eskom warns

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An electricity pylon (iStock).
An electricity pylon (iStock).

Eskom will not be restoring power to areas that have repeated failures due to illegal connections, the power utility said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Eskom will only restore supply to legal and paying customers in the areas, on condition that the community allows safe access to Eskom staff to conduct audits and remove illegal connections," the statement said.

There was an increasing number of repeated equipment failures in some areas, particularly in Gauteng, the power utility added.

"This is primarily due to illegal connections leading to overloading which results in failure of transformers and mini-substations. This is exacerbated by meter tampering, electricity theft and vandalism of infrastructure," Eskom said.

Restoring power 'wasteful'

Audits had to be conducted, because if they were not, there was the risk of continued failures "without dealing with the root cause". This made power restoration a "wasteful exercise", Eskom said.

According to Eskom, the decision was taken after consultation with customers and other stakeholders across Gauteng.

"Eskom will continue to engage with councillors in all affected areas to deal adequately with these issues. Furthermore, Eskom would like to affirm its commitment to collaborate and engage with various communities to find solutions so that we can resume with our services. I thank and applaud paying customers for their continued commitment to paying for the services that they use," said Group Executive for Distribution Monde Bala.

The embattled power utility, which is facing nearly R500bn in debt, appealed to consumers to report illegal connections and meter tampering, including when Eskom employees were involved.

Gauteng has faced various power outages in recent months, which have been attributed by Eskom to various triggers, including cable theft, substation failures and other technical problems.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, members of the African National Congress in Johannesburg handed over a memorandum to Eskom at its offices at Megawatt Park, demanding that power should be restored across Johannesburg where residents were experiencing blackouts.

Eskom is owed billions by defaulting municipalities. 

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