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Defaulters to be disconnected from power network

A RAID on businesses in Komani by the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality in a search of electricity thieves has shown that more than 100 businesses in the small town are stealing power from the municipality, which is struggling to collect revenue so it can service its debt to Eskom.

The long list was revealed by the municipality’s councillor, Mncedisi Mbengo, who serves on the local authority’s public safety unit.

Mbengo said some of the businesses had already come forward and offered to pay what they owed to the municipality, while others negotiated paying their debts with penalties in instalments.

“The campaign isn’t targeting certain people but every consumer of the municipal services from Hofmeyr, Tarkastad, Komani, Sterkstroom and all other areas under Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality. And those who we find in the wrong will be dealt with accordingly whether they are locals or immigrants because we came prepared to eradicate power theft without any fear or favours,” said Mbengo.

Before the campaign, the municipal representatives had a meeting with stakeholders (consumers) where they had also invited Eskom and the SAPS. Mbengo said this was done to ensure smooth running of the campaign.

He said they were busy identifying businesses operating in the townships and other residential areas so they could be rezoned and billed accordingly.

“We will leave no stone unturned this time. In the townships we have shops operating in back rooms that generate high volumes of revenue but billed as indigents and others treated as ordinary consumers.

“With the assistance of the municipality’s unit of human settlements we will have them rezoned and those that are operated by immigrants will be dealt with working closely with the Department of Home Affairs,” he said, adding that they were welcoming lists of those with tempered metre boxes.

“If anyone says their meter box had a fault and they reported it to the municipality and an arrangement was made – we want evidence in such cases,” said Mbengo.

He said they had roped Eskom and SAPS in on the campaign so that if the municipality’s department of technical services drags its feet to effect disconnections, Eskom can chip in.

Mbengo’s ally, Luthando Amos, who serves on the municipal finance committee, added that he would be meeting the chairperson of the standing committee of the department of technical services in the municipality over rumours of officials having a hand in the acts of power theft.

“There are leads that we are following about municipal officials involved in stealing electricity and according to the information we have, others go as far as reconnecting those we had disconnected.

“We want those who are implicated to be suspended because they are taking us backwards,” said Amos.

Among government departments, Public Works was identified as the top defaulter.

Amos said there were unoccupied buildings belonging to the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) in the CBD that had lights and geysers running 24/7 without the corporation paying.

The speedy investigations of power theft come after Eskom had demanded that the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality pays a lump sum of more R100 million within 40 days or else face disconnections.

Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality Mayor, Luleka Gubhula, said the raids and disconnections were a move to force people to pay what they owe so they could avert the planned periodical interruptions of bulk power supply to Komani and Tarkastad.

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