KAMHLUSHWA – Illegal electricity usage is a huge problem in Nkomazi, with the 516 tamper fines issued by the service provider a good indication of the extent. Electricity theft costs South Africa around R20 billion per year.
In the Malelane sector, under which the Nkomazi municipality falls, Eskom reported monthly losses of about 37 per cent with more than R3 million’s tamper fees still unpaid.
Since the launch of Eskom’s customer incentive campaign on November 23, more than 90 customers have come forward.
The campaign gave community members with tampered electricity meters, irregularly connected electricity or who used illegal prepaid vouchers, the opportunity to report this in return for not being disconnected, receiving a 50 per cent discount on the remedial charge and not being fined for the period they used electricity illegally.
Richard Shiba, Eskom’s marketing operation manager in Mpumalanga, said customers reported in large numbers to the Eskom Customer Service Hub in KaMhlushwa, prompting them to extend the campaign to tomorrow (February 9).
“When this date lapses, however, we will engage in an intensive operation to identify all those who are still using electricity illegally and they will face the full might of the law, which includes disconnection of electricity supply, the full payment of the tamper fine and a disconnection fee, as well as possible imprisonment,” Shiba warned.
Customers need to report to their nearest Eskom Customer Service Centre with their SA ID or passport, meter number, pole or stand number and recent proof of residence.
Due to its success, the campaign was extended to the rest of Mpumalanga and will be launched countrywide soon.
Eskom hopes that through initiatives like this, customers will utilise legal connections and reduce the risk of children or community members coming into contact with unsafe connections.
Measures such as this have also exposed several problems such as customers who have been using electricity for free for years because of faulty meters that were not reported or replaced, electricity not purchased from Eskom and electricity supply that was legally connected but not registered on its systems.
Electricity theft such as illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing, buying and selling of illegal prepaid power vouchers, theft of infrastructure (such as cables, transformers) and non-payment should be reported to the service provider.
These practices will not only earn perpetrators heavy fines or prosecutions, but also impact electricity prices and could result in injuries and fatalities.
Community members can report electricity theft anonymously by sending an SMS to 32211. SMSes cost R1. The text should include the address or description of the location where the crime is happening, including pole numbers, stand numbers or street names, a description of the suspects as well as what type of theft that is taking place. Tip-offs can also be given via www.crimeline.co.za.