RESIDENTS of a Johannesburg south suburb recently had to spend a week without electricity in the freezing cold after a transformer blew up because of illegal connections.
The explosion at the Lunar sub-stantion in Lenasia south caused a power outage that left thousands of residents in distress.
“City Power has an estimate of R2bn revenue loses annually. Illegal connections contribute 30% of such loses,” City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena told Inside Metros.
The scourge of illegal connections has been blamed by municipalities for being one of the major reasons behind the massive debt to electricity power supplier Eskom.
The power supplier told parliament that it’s owed over R19 billion by municipalities in unpaid services.
Municipalities have in turn blamed this partly on illegal connections. The debt is projected to worsen as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SA Local Government Association told the portfolio committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs that revenue collection rates by municipalities will drastically reduce for the remainder of the 2019/20 financial year, with an added increased bad debt provision to be factored in due to the pandemic.
But the illegal connection scourge remains a big challenge.
“We do between three to five [operations] a month in major informal settlements which are the problematic areas when it comes to illegal connections. We work with law enforcement, so depending on the availability of Public Order police,” said Mangena.
He said these operations exclude the individual households and business property illegal connections that come through audits and tip off.
“We have to emphasize that illegal connections do not only happen in townships but even well-off suburbs. We have in recent weeks conducted cut offs in areas like Midrand and Roodepoort where we targeted townhouses, business parks and shops. We are going to intensify such operations in the well-off areas,” Mangena warned.
He said other contributions to the revenue loss include meter tampering, and defective metering infrastructure.
“This is the money we can use for other service delivery. The loses may be higher if you consider how much businesses and households lose every time there is an outage caused by illegal connections which can last from an hour to a week especially,” he said.
Power supplier last week said it had “noted a significant rise in network overloading resulting from illegal connections across the high density areas of Gauteng.”
Eskom said the “overloading is also apparent in areas with multiple or backyard dwellings, bypassed meters, and vandalism of the electricity infrastructure. These illegal connections and tempering with Eskom equipment result in damages to electrical infrastructure such as transformers, mini-substations and substations in these areas.”
“The illegal connections, meter bypasses and other theft-related activities on our infrastructure continue to be the leading cause for the sporadic and prolonged electricity interruptions, which leave the communities without power for days. Eskom is not in a position to continually repair damaged equipment caused by overloading and illegal connections.”
(Compiled by Inside Metros staff)