KSD calls in private companies to help fight electricity theft

Angry Mthatha city bosses have asked the public to help catch cable thieves.
Angry Mthatha city bosses have asked the public to help catch cable thieves.
Image: SUPPLIED

Already battling to collect hundreds of millions of rand from ratepayers while facing accusations of instituting “rip-off” tariffs on electricity sales, the King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) municipality has now taken aim at rampant electricity theft and illegal power connections.

Municipal bosses have appointed private companies to find the culprits and bring them to justice.

The municipality is also considering installing smart meters in people’s homes.

Municipal spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza told the Dispatch on Thursday that three private companies had been appointed to conduct door-to-door checks on homes.

He said KSD had lost about R100m in the last five years alone due to electricity tampering, theft and illegal connections.

On average, the municipality is losing in the region of R10m a year. Not only is this reducing revenue but it also poses a huge risk to infrastructure, leading to equipment failure and the power supply network being overloaded

“On average, the municipality is losing in the region of R10m a year,” he said.

“Not only is this reducing revenue but it also poses a huge risk to infrastructure, leading to equipment failure and the power supply network being overloaded.”

He said the practice occurred everywhere in the municipality but was most prevalent in Mthatha West, Bongweni, Ngangelizwe, Maiden Farm and the Mthatha CBD.

The culprits were mainly people who operated from shipping containers and caravans.

Mampoza said electricity theft was widespread in areas like Mandela Park, Slovo Park, Chris Hani informal settlements and Maiden Farm.

Some municipal staff were even  chased away from people’s homes.

“We have received reports that our staff have been getting threats and are being prevented from doing their jobs.”

He said those found guilty of electricity theft were given fines or were totally disconnected from the power supply until they had paid.

In 2019, KSD mayor Nyaniso Nelani told journalists the municipality was owed more than R400m for rates and municipal services.

Raymond Knock, a DA leader in KSD, who also serves on the municipality’s finance committee, said KSD had lost R61m in electricity sales in the 2019-20 financial year according to the Section 52(d) report.

He said there were other contributing factors, such as city street lights and high mast lights in residential areas being left on all day.

He said everyone was expected to pay for electricity unless they were registered with the municipality as indigents.

Two weeks ago a group calling itself KSD Concerned Residents marched to the municipal offices to hand over a petition asking to be allowed to either buy power directly from Eskom or for the municipality to slash its current tariffs on electricity purchases by 50%.

They described the tariffs as a rip-off, saying many people in KSD could not afford to pay them.

Mthatha Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesperson Madyibi Ngxekana said the municipality should shoulder the blame as it had failed to take residents into its confidence or consult with them.

As a result, people were resorting to theft as they could no longer afford to buy electricity.

Mthatha-based Eastern Cape Chamber of Business president Vuyisile Ntlabathi said the municipality had weak control systems.

Ratepayers were issued with rates statements only three times a year, he said.

Some discovered only later that they owed huge sums of money, which they were unable to pay.


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