[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Electricity decommodification in Durban
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Apr 11 19:29:33 BST 2006
Big business and upmarket areas also blamed
Electricity thefts cost R50 million
April 11, 2006
By Zukile Majova
Big business and homeowners who steal electricity from the city are costing
ratepayers more than R50 million a year despite modern measures introduced
to guard against the illegal connection of power in the eThekwini municipal
EThekwini electricity head Howard Whitehead said his department had a
special unit monitoring tampering with power boxes at homes and the illegal
use of electricity in informal settlements, townships and most upmarket
"One would have assumed that it is only the poor who are stealing
electricity because they may be really battling to foot the bill, but people
in rich suburbs are also connecting themselves illegally.
"Currently, residential properties account for 50% of all the revenue lost
in illegal connections, while the other chunk is stolen by big business.
This does not mean that many businesses steal electricity, but that the few
who do, steal a lot of it," he said.
Whitehead said people in upmarket suburbs were not paying their electricity
bills because they were "rebelling against the new establishment (the
"As far as businesses are concerned, I would say theft of electricity would
be deliberate," he said.
Whitehead said illegal connections accounted for 2.5% of the city's
"While it remains a concern, we are proud that we are able to cap it at
2.5%, while other cities have suffered losses above 30%.
"This is all thanks to our Revenue Protection Services, which regularly
inspects customer connection meters and is able to spot tampering
immediately," he said.
The "theft" of electricity costs the city of Tshwane about R600 million a
Asked how people in poor areas were able to run up bills of more than R10
000 while other people's electricity was disconnected for owing less than R1
000, Whitehead said disconnections were done over a 40-day cycle, which
included notices of intent to cut the power.
"Another thing that must be clarified is that the R10 000 bill some people
accumulate could be a consolidated bill, which means it may include rates,
water, traffic fines and electricity. The last possibility is that the
person would have been disconnected and he illegally connected himself,
leading to the bill being further accumulated."
Last week, inspectors charged an Avon Crescent, Durban North, resident with
illegally connecting his house to electricity from the street lights.
Electricity deputy head Sew Harilal said electricity to the home had been
disconnected on March 13 but the owner had connected himself from a nearby
"We have now cut the electricity cable leading to his house, taken the meter
away and charged him a R300 fine.
"To be reconnected, he will have to first pay for whatever amount of
electricity he stole, settle his debt and reapply for his account, which
means he will have to pay R1 475," said Harilal.
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