City Power turns lights of defaulting businesses off in three-day blitz

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Illegal electrical wires snake their way to an electrical box in Region E of Johannesburg.
Illegal electrical wires snake their way to an electrical box in Region E of Johannesburg.
Alex Patrick
  • City Power embarked on the first day of a three-day revenue collection effort on defaulting businesses in Region E.
  • The region owes R363 million and the entity is hoping to get back at least R36 million.
  • A family who had their electricity cut was shocked to learn their landlord had an illegal electricity connection.

Pulane Mokoena is grateful she converted to gas cooking last week because she will be able to feed her three children and her husband as night falls.

The 25 other residents at Joper Properties in Kew may not be so lucky after Johannesburg's City Power cut their electricity on Tuesday.

However, days later City Power confirmed that Joper's account was up-to-date and not in arrears. It also confirmed that the building wasn't illegally connected as officials claimed when they cut the power on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the bulk electricity supplier began a three-day revenue collection effort to recover some of the R363 million owed by defaulting businesses in Region E.

The entity hopes to retrieve R36 million of this debt within three days.

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said only 4% of Alexandra paid for electricity, and some of the bills were in the millions.

READ | City Power to cut off defaulters in Alexandra in bid to recover R363m

He said City Power was first going after the low-hanging fruit - the businesses that could afford to pay their bills, but don't.

According to Mangena, these businesses include:

Engine Garage, which had a bill of around R1 million. The garage owner made an appointment to meet with City Power on Tuesday to avoid having their electricity cut.

A City Power employees moves to cut an illegal ele
A City Power employees moves to cut an illegal electricity connection at a church in Region E.

Wynberg SAPS owed about R1 million but had documents to prove they were querying the amount and managed to avoid having their electricity cut.

The Central Johannesburg College owed R980 000, but Mangena said they were tipped off on Monday and paid the bill.

"They paid yesterday, so the amount still needs to reflect. But they had the ability to pay what they owed, and they just didn't pay until we threatened to cut them."

When City Power inspected a mini substation outside the college, they found the wires had already been cut and stolen. Power to the nearby traffic lights was also affected.

Ashur Properties owed over R2 million. Owner Sylvester Joseph said he was in litigation with the City over the bill. But on inspection of the electrical meter, City Power employees said there was no mistake over the account and cut the cables connecting his factory to the electrical main.

The Winners Chapel International church owes R740 000, and their electricity was also cut.

Across the road from the church, the Revelation Spiritual Home was found to have an illegal connection. This was traced back to an electrical meter on the pavement, which was cut back and stripped of illegal electrical wires.

When City Power followed the illegal connection to a nearby electrical panel, it led to Joper Properties.

READ | City of Joburg working on emergency plan to deal with surge in cable theft

Mokoena said she was shocked to learn that the property owner may have had an illegal electricity connection.

She showed News24 inside her home and her prepaid electrical meter.

"I'm very disappointed to have the electricity cut. I pay R800 a month for electricity. But at least I have a gas stove. I had to use gas because of load shedding."

Pulane Mokoena shows News24 her prepaid electrical
Pulane Mokoena shows News24 her prepaid electrical meter. She was shocked to lear that although she pays for electricity, the landlord has an illegal electricity connection.

Mangena said City Power was owed R4 billion from businesses and residences in Johannesburg.

He said the culture of non-payment of electricity was both historical and political in Alexandra, and the electricity supplier hoped that the culture can change by acting on defaulters.  

"We want businesses that can pay, to come forward before we come to them. Many of these businesses have the money, but they just don't want to pay."

On Wednesday, the entity will go to smaller businesses within the township, like taverns and salons.

Editor's note: In an earlier version of this article the building City Power went to in Kew was wrongly attributed to Nonya Properties. Nonya has since pointed out that the building is owned by Joper Properties. We apologise for this error which has since been corrected.

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