/ 9 June 2022

City Power recovers R500 000 worth of illegal aluminium electricity cables; what does this mean for paying customers

Transmission Lines Eskom
Eskom’s generating capacity is threatened with further instability because 12 power units could cease abruptly, creating a shortage of 4 956 megawatts. (Madelene Cronje)

City Power is clamping down on illegal connections which can result in consumers buying R100 worth of electricity then only being able to use R60. The rest has gone to illegal connections, according to City Power. 

In the past week the power utility has conducted seven operations in Lenasia, Pimville, Yeoville, Observatory and several informal settlements, said its spokesperson Isaac Mangena. 

“We will intensify these illegal connections operations across the City of Johannesburg to ensure we address the vandalism of our infrastructure, theft of our cables and overloading,which has been the reason for most of the outage.”

However, those living in informal settlements are frustrated that the City of Johannesburg has failed to provide them with legal connections. Angry residents expressed their frustrations to the power utility during an operation in Crosby, west of Johannesburg on Thursday. 

Joseph Ditchake has lived in Slovopark since 1993. He explained that he grew up in the informal settlement and has not had proper electricity.

“We have been forgotten about in Slovopark. Apart from our electricity issues we have sewage constantly running in our streets from mobile toilets. There has not been any form of service delivery in this area for more than 10 years. We are entering the winter season and without electricity at night criminals have opportunities to prey on elders and young women,” said Ditchake.

However those with legal connections in the area at times have had to endure days without electricity. The city confirmed that it is facing a backlog of complaints about electricity cuts. These were caused by the overloading, in turn caused by the illegal connections in the area. Other residents have been complaining about getting shocks from their doors and shower taps, among others.

In June 2021 the Crosby area made headlines for its high rate of illegal electricity connections after newly-weds Nabeelah and Zaheer Sareng died after being electrocuted from touching a shower tap.

City Power investigated the matter and found evidence of meter tampering and illegal electricity connections on the family property where the couple stayed in a cottage.

In a statement, Mangena explained that the couple had previously reported problems but only of outages.

“The family had connected a cable from our overhead cable supplying the main house, cut it in the middle before it could reach the main house distribution box and connected it to the couple’s cottage. That cable burnt completely and we suspect it could be the reason for the electrocution.

“City Power found that the meter was bridged and whoever did so disconnected the earth on the meter box, which is inside the customer’s house. This confirms our suspicion that our network could have been tampered with, leading to instability in the voltage,” said Mangena.

Following the death of the couple, the power utility conducted an operation in the area and recovered R500 000 worth of cables from illegal connections.

On Thursday City Power recovered ten tonnes of aluminium cables and bare wires worth R500 000 at the Slovopark informal settlements.

Mangena said the illegal connections affected electricity supply to essential infrastructure in the area including to schools, hospitals and Joburg Water reservoirs in the area.

He explained that City Power buys R11-billion of electricity from Eskom which they need to sell to make revenue and reinvest int the city by placing new street lights and providing the 231 informal settlements in the city with electricity. Instead the power utility loses R2-billion a year to illegal connections. 

“Apart from the illegal connections we are faced with we also have to deal with vandalism to our mini substations. Thieves break the doors of the substation with stolen cables from street lights, pole mountain transformers and underground. This shortens the lifespan of our substations apart from wear and tear,” said Mangena.

He said the operations provided some relief especially to substations and allowed paying customers to cook and warm their homes without power trips or fear of being electrocuted.