One of the biggest challenges Eskom faces is the issue of electricity theft by residents of some communities in South Africa. This perhaps might increase with the introduction of a higher tariff alongside other technical issues. The utility raised concern on the risk people take in doing so.
Residents of Philippi have been reported to have joined the theme of those illegally connecting electricity to their homes and the utility worries that these residents do not mind the dangers attached to such act.
Visiting the Marikana informal settlement where illegal electricity connections are a major problem, yesterday, Eskom officials expressed shock over the rate of vandalism and electricity theft that happens in the area.
Eskom Western Cape Provincial Head, Alwie Lester who joined in the visit, confirmed this adding that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to prevent crimes against the utility. He said this with reference to the growing informal settlement which is now more than 250 in the Western Cape.
Speaking on this, a Philippi resident Elvis Mamputa said most of the residents have no choice as everyone needs electricity.
“To tell you the truth, everybody needs electricity. The community tried to approach Eskom to install boxes for power, but people can’t wait for that process to be established,” he said.
However, Alwie Lester said the parastatal has derived means of educating residents on the dangers of cable and electricity theft.
Lester also pointed out that areas like Montague Gardens, Table View and Parklands – the light commercial customers are part of the areas where the utility looses more because the people in that area 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.
Aside the illegal connection, Eskom suffered another major loss through cable theft which last year, cost them to spend R40 million as 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.” Lester said.
While taking the media on a tour to most areas where these illegal activities take place, Eskom explained in a company statement that these illegal connections are often connected to a mini sub-station or a neighbour’s meter or electricity board but the utility is more concerned about the safety of the people.
“One of our top priorities at Eskom is safety, and this extends to everyone including our employees, contractors, consumers as well as the general public.” Lester added that the utility plans to work together with communities to avoid electricity-related injuries and fatalities and ensure a safer environment.
“As part of our commitment to ‘ZERO HARM’, we would like to implore our communities to help us eliminate the various hazards brought about by the unsafe use or connections of electricity.”