Small businesses, not shack-dwellers behind most WCape electricity theft - Eskom

Alwie Lester (Tammy Petersen)
Alwie Lester (Tammy Petersen)

Cape Town - Illegal electricity connections in townships are not behind much of the 6% revenue loss in the Western Cape, Eskom said on Wednesday. 

"Let me clear this misperception – people think our losses are bigger in areas like Khayelitsha. It's not," Eskom Western Cape provincial head Alwie Lester said.

"You should be looking at areas like Montague Gardens, Table View and Parklands - the light commercial customers."

This is because they can afford to pay someone to do their illegal connections which are not always visible to the electricity supplier.

"It's easy to drive past and see a cable strung across the road, but when you get there you see that cable actually goes to a meter, meaning that person is actually paying at some point. But that's not the loss.

"It's when small businesses ... have paid an electrician to bypass our meter or link directly to our kiosk with their cable. We have had incidents where over one weekend a customer... [employed] people to go dig a trench next to ours," Lester said.

The province's 6% loss is much lower in comparison with the rest of the country.

Syndicates focused on cable theft are another headache for Eskom, leading to them spending R40 million in the last year on replacement costs and reactive security measures.

"That's where the organised crime comes in. People are able to go into Khayelitsha in broad daylight, looking like they work for Public Works or Eskom because they have boards and cones.

"They chop up the pavements and take hundreds of metres of cables out and no one asks questions because it looks like it's all very legal. They are not coming there to take one metre of cable. They take 100 metres of it."

And while the company is constantly exploring changing materials and other ways of protecting its infrastructure, criminals are also constantly evolving.

"If you look at an area like Bishop Lavis, we were losing kiosks to vandalism daily and we decided to secure it by welding it after we have completed our work.

"In less than a matter of weeks the criminals were there with cordless grinders, opening it up. So as we apply our technology, they apply their methods to get around it."

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