South Africa

KwaDukuza takes stand against electricity thieves and defaulting customers

Durban - THE KwaDukuza Municipality has taken a strong stand against illegal connections and defaulting customers and has recouped millions of rand in additional revenue and fines.

It urged other municipalities to follow suit before their financial situation reels out of control.

Illegal electricity connections have been a drain on revenues for municipalities across the province.

The eThekwini Municipality reported losses of R70 million due to illegal electricity connections in the past year and the Msunduzi Municipality said last year that the theft of electricity cost the municipality approximately R700 000 per year.

KwaDukuza Municipality spokesperson Sipho Mkhize said yesterday that the municipality had taken several steps to deal with the problem after losing millions of rand in revenue.

He said at the end of November last year, losses were in the region of 25% of billable revenue.

“Therefore looking at the total debt as at the end of December 2020 it can be assumed that this figure is in the region of R11 million for this current financial year which ends on 30 June 2021,” Mkhize said.

“Council had to act in order to decrease the debt incurred by the municipality in the category of revenue, with that said, residents were coming forward to say in some instances their neighbours are stealing electricity or are illegally connected and felt it was unfair on their side as they were law abiding,” Mkhize said.

He said the municipality established a Revenue and Debt Steering Committee (RDSC) to verify these reported cases and to enforce the by-laws where property owners had violated them. He said apart from anonymous tip-offs regarding illegal connections, the municipality had identified other cases during a meter replacement program.

Mkhize said the municipality had disconnected 819 consumers with a total outstanding debt of R21 000 855.21, also bringing additional revenue of R912 9151.63 since August 12, 2020.

He said steps the municipality had taken to address illegal connections and theft of electricity had included appointing a service provider to undertake disconnections with the aim of speeding up debt recovery; handing debtors over to the debt collection panel of attorneys and partially blocking 40% of electricity supply to debtors that use prepaid electricity meters.

“During the last week of August 2020, the RDSC and service provider commenced with the meter replacement program and inspection and removal of illegal electricity connections,” Mkhize said.

He said the process had led to the municipality issuing a total of 317 “tamper fines” to the value of R 368 4378.87, of which 181 related to business properties with a fine value of R 253 5138.18, and 136 to domestic properties with a fine value of R 1 149 240.69. He said so far 150 customers had come forward and paid a total of R 1 710 895.70 in fines.

“Eighty seven of the 181 business customers have paid their fines, and amount received was R 1 183 173.05, while 63 of the 136 domestic customers have paid their fines and amount received was R527 722.65,” Mkhize said.

Asked whether criminal charges would be laid against the perpetrators, he said “at this stage fines have been issued”.

He said the municipality had resolved that the drive to eradicate illegal connections would continue on a weekly basis.

“We urge residents, stakeholders and businesses of the KwaDukuza Municipality to ‘pay for your services, there is nothing for mahhala’,” Mkhize said.

KwaDukuza exco member and DA councillor Madhun Sing said the municipality had “adopted an aggressive campaign to deal with culprits and criminals who steal electricity from the municipality”.

“The last figure was R 115 million in energy loss and debtors stood at R 274 million. It makes it extremely difficult for the municipality to operate smoothly with these challenges,” Sing said.

He said while embarking on the aggressive campaign, the municipality had also put measures in place to help the indigent and those affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said the municipality also needed to allocate an appropriate budget for the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

“This is not happening. Our network needs to be regularly maintained and upgraded. The split in the losses is almost 50% through network (faults) and the other 50 % is illegal connections,” he said.

The eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city had lost R70 million in electricity theft in the past year.

“This is a serious concern for the city as illegal connections are overburdening the grid which to a large extent results in our infrastructure malfunctioning. Bearing testimony to that are the numerous incidents where our transformers burst resulting in many homes being plunged into darkness, sometimes out of the load shedding schedule,” Mayisela said.

He said illegal connections continued to be a serious problem in the city despite the city legally electrifying more than 500 informal settlements.

“Land invasion continues to compound our woes, because once people have invaded land, they then steal electricity. We are therefore calling upon all members of the community to be vigilant and report any signs of land invasion to the city. We are also calling upon all our residents to be ambassadors against illegal connections.”

EThekwini DA councillor Nicole Graham said the city did not have a clear plan to deal with rampant illegal connections.

“The city has got a big problem with illegal connections. They place a huge burden on the grid and the people neighbouring the informal settlements face ongoing outages and at the same time there is a need for people to be able to access and pay for the services,” she said.

She said the police needed to work together with the city to address illegal connections.

The Mercury

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