Power theft is once again in the news, with both Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the City of Tshwane highlighting the cost of theft.  According to Tshwane, electricity theft is costing the city about R150 million ($13 963 million) annually.

Tshwane spokeswoman, Lebogang Matji, says that illegal connections are not just confined to informal settlements, although this is where they were most prevalent.

“From time to time there are electrocutions here and there, especially where there are dangerous wires near where children play,” Matji said. The city’s electricity division officials monitored illegal connections and disconnected them where they were discovered.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, plans are being rolled out to implement cheaper ‘intermin electricity’ to those users who are illegally connected.  The plan will see these users being able to purchase electricity by the hour, so as little as R2 – R3 ($ 0.18c – $0.27c) per hour.

Vastrap, near Booysen Park in Nelson Mandela Bay, has been affected by illegal connections which left residents bordering the settlement in the dark for more than three weeks in the latest power outage.  This will be the first community served by the new venture.

South Africa loses about R4.4 billion ($409 874 million) a year due to electricity theft, with Eskom losing about R2bn ($187 million), the balance being lost by municipalities.

According to Eskom, power theft is on the increase, and the utility has attributed this to harsh economic conditions and the high electricity tariffs. Eskom said it is losing electricity through meter tampering and illegal connections on its installations across the country. It is also incurring losses through the illegal vending of prepaid electricity.

The utility said power theft ranged from illegal connections by household users and farmers to meter tampering by both small users and big users such as industries and mines.

Eskom has announced it will audit 33% of all large power users annually and 20% of all others as means of combatting meter tampering and theft.

Eskom’s initiatives to fight power losses continue to bear fruit. These include the energy losses programme and Operation Khanyisa, which have shown some positive impact on the losses.

Communities have rallied around the call for action made by Operation Khanyisa to report any form of electricity theft. From inception to date, over 6 200 tip-offs have been received and many arrests made.

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