Ratepayers ripped off

1329474Port Elizabeth – Municipalities around the country are being brought to their knees by ruthless syndicates who are responsible for cities and towns losing millions every month.

The theft is relentless. In one of the more recent examples, the NelsonMandelaMunicipality said it was losing R24-million each month. eThekwini ratepayers are reported to be losing R120-million a year.

The Cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg lose about R121-million and R663-million respectively. The crime has also been reported as one of the factors that brought uMsunduziMunicipality to its knees. Many other smaller municipalities are likewise being devastated.

The crime behind these losses is electricity theft and happens in various forms. Syndicates employ individuals who are desperate for work to sell illegal prepaid electricity vouchers, to connect households illegally, tamper with their meters, or to steal electricity cables. The culprits do all of this at a fee, luring innocent people into crime. These syndicates often pretend to be employees of Eskom or local government, intimidating and victimising ordinary citizens, preventing them from taking action.

Recently a large quantity of electricity boxes, connectors and a receipt book were found during the arrest of suspects in Port Elizabeth. The receipt book included addresses of buildings in Cape Town, George, Knysna and Port Elizabeth where electricity boxes were installed. Investigations are ongoing and information found in the receipt book could lead to further arrests. The perpetrators could face serious criminal charges.

Local government has joined forces with the power utility Eskom, the business sector and the media to stem the flow of losses caused by electricity theft. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is a core partner of Operation Khanyisa, a campaign that aims to mobilise all South Africans for legal, safe and efficient electricity use.

SALGA has recently committed to redoubling its efforts to combat the crime of electricity theft, which it says is responsible for municipalities losing up to R3.2-billion each year. According to SALGA’s Executive Director for Municipal Infrastructure Services, Mthobeli Kolisa, SALGA needs to coordinate and support municipalities to act and report their action in respect of electricity theft, and to review their by-laws to have more stringent penalties against electricity theft.

At the launch of Operation Khanyisa, Xolile George, CEO of SALGA, described electricity theft as “a pandemic coursing through our delivery capabilities and fiscal planning”.

“Local government,” he said “plays a pivotal role in the distribution of electricity, and electricity theft hits at the very heart of the electricity distribution industry in South Africa.”

“Enough is enough,” George continued. “We have joined forces with our partners in Operation Khanyisa and will stamp out this crime.”

Together with Crime Line, Operation Khanyisa provides a platform for South Africans to report electricity theft anonymously.

Act now, South Africa!

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