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Electrocuted Joburg newlyweds are victims of illegal po...

Maverick Citizen


Electrocuted Joburg newlyweds are victims of illegal power connection and meter tampering, says City Power

The funeral service of the couple believed to be electrocuted at their home in Crosby near Mayfair in Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

City Power has found evidence of meter tampering and an illegal electricity connection at the property where a newlywed couple was electrocuted in Johannesburg at the weekend.

A City Power investigation into the fatal electrocution of a couple who had just returned from their honeymoon showed that the meter at their property was tampered with to bypass the calculation of consumption. 

The earth wire was disconnected, which means the current did not trip when a fault was detected, said the utility in a press release on Thursday.  

Zaheer Sarang and his new bride, Nabeela Khan-Sarang, returned to their cottage in Crosby, Johannesburg, on Saturday. They had been on their honeymoon. Soon after, Nabeela was electrocuted in the shower. Zaheer died as he tried to rescue her.

Their family, who live in a separate house on the property, has paid an admission of guilt fine of R10,000 to have their electricity reconnected. 

“We have also fixed their meter and they promised to start buying their electricity,” said City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena. However, the family’s electricity supply remains disconnected “until such time the legal requirements for safe connection have been established”.

The family had previously reported electricity problems to City Power, but Mangena said they had only reported outages. 

Numerous Johannesburg residents have since reported that they also suffer electrical shocks while using taps. However, Mangena blames illegal connections across the city. 

Referring to the death of the couple, Mangena said, “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 the couple in the other house. That cable burnt completely and we suspect it could be the reason for the electrocution.” 

He added, “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 earlier suspicion that our network could have been tampered with, leading to instability in the voltage.”

Electricity meter-bridging is common across the city, where consumers dodge payments by stopping the counter on the meter. Numerous businesses reportedly also engage in this practice.

Mangena said the areas of Mayfair and Crosby are plagued by illegal connections, which are clearly visible. Many poles are festooned with spaghetti-like tangles of electrical wiring. 

He said residents concerned for their safety should get an electrician to check their connections. 

A spokesperson for the family did not respond to requests for comment on the City Power finding. DM


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All Comments 10

  • Thank you for following up on your original article, Ferrial. It is disturbing that you were not given the full facts, and very sad that people lost their lives because of an illegal connection.

  • Unfortunately City Power has been used as a cash cow to generate revenue without proper maintenance being done on the network, which should be picking up and removing illegal and dangerous connections. Human nature being what it is, if your neighbors have bypassed their meters without consequences, you will be inclined to do so as well. This is a negative spiral as people who aren’t paying use much more electricity, leading to network overloading, trips and failures. So money has to be directed from routine maintenance to repairs, and the network deteriorates further. Declining revenue due to meter bypassing also puts pressure on maintenance budgets.
    Thank you for sharing the facts on this sad case.

  • This puts a whole new spin on the story. Still tragic, but there is some culpability for the owners/landlords in all of this.

  • As the report states, the illegal connections are clearly visible and City Power is aware of this illegal, dangerous practice. Why, then, isn’t a team employed to regularly carry out random monitoring & to disconnect illegal connections? There is no mention of police investigation to identify the person who carried out the illegal connection, the one who paid for it and all those who were complicit in the illegality by their knowledge and silence about the illegal connection. All are culpable to a grater or lesser degree in the deaths of this young couple. It is, of course, really sad that this couple lost their lives so young & so tragically. But the question remains: people have money for a honeymoon but don’t pay for their use of electricity?

  • Must say, I still don’t understand how taps get electrified to the point where the current is strong enough to kill you. Electricity is typically contained within the wiring system, and to my knowledge can only ‘leak’ via exposed wires which touches a conductor like metal or water. I suspect theres even more to this tragic story.

    • Absolutely agree! Even if the electricity meter has been bridged and the earth wire disconnected does not explain how an uninsulated live wire can get connected to the plumbing system. Blame shifting by city power.

  • Don’t miss the fact that the ‘misconduct’ by the residents in this case has not been confirmed as proven. I for one do not believe a word that comes from the investigation by City Power/anc cadres.

  • Dear Ferial Haffajee. Your first article quite alarmed me. It was a case of poor journalism. You had clearly no clue of what you were writing about, and you did not go into the depth of researching it. Your article incorrectly pointed fingers at City Power, for something that was clearly not in their domain. You have now rectified this in your current article, which I am grateful for.
    As I will explain, getting shocks in a shower are clearly a sign of bad earthing, and of a poor or illegal electrical installation on the property. It is outside of the responsibility of City Power. City Power don’t attend to electric faults on someone’s property, in the same way that Joburg Water won’t attend to a blocked sink – what’s on your property is your responsibility, not theirs! So you cannot call them to complain.
    Getting shocks in the shower or from a pipe or an electrical device are sign of a bad/illegal installation: when a kettle (or a fridge, geyser or any other appliance) becomes wet and faulty inside, dampness can allow the current to escape to the body of the kettle. The body of the kettle is connected to an earth wire, which should be connected to earth. (And so are the bodies of your washing machine, fridge, geyser and pipes.) The current will then run to earth, and won’t endanger you. But, if the main earth wire is disconnected from earth, as it was here, that escaping current will run to the casing of all other devices in the house. You can then get a shock from a shower.

  • Even though our power sockets only really need live and neutral to work (e.g. cellphone chargers), we all implicitly rely on that earth terminal as our rescue rope to pull us from the hazard of electrocution. That earth terminal is SUPPOSED to be connected directly to ground potential, the voltage of the earth that we walk on. If it is, and your house is wired correctly, then you should never get an electric shock from touching a tap. But who is to say what your earth terminal is actually connected to? Our building codes say/(said) that we should “bond” our earth wires to our plumbing, on the “grounds” that the pipes are metal and they all end up in the ground, so they should be at real earth potential. So, in most of our houses, geysers and pipes are electrically connected to the earth wire of the power supply. But, with technological advancement, we now usually have plastic pipes to supply and drain the water below the ground (no longer metal pipes, because they rust), but we use copper pipes above ground and in the ceiling (they are durable, economical, and easy to join by soldering). So what happens if SOMEONE disconnects the earth terminal from the true earth? Then it can easily happen that we have 230VAC (relative to true earth) on the house’s “earth” terminals, including the plumbing, sadly. A wet person standing in a shower is a very good conductor to real earth, hence electrocution. Who is to blame? I would say 80% house owner, 20% City Power, on average…

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