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POWER CRISIS

Illegal electricity connections cost Cape Town R83m in 10 months

Illegal electricity connections cost Cape Town R83m in 10 months
Illegal power connections in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

While the nation grapples with the effects of rolling blackouts, Cape Town has intensified efforts to remove unlawful electricity connections that cost the city millions.

Ongoing illegal electricity connections and vandalism have cost the City of Cape Town R83-million in less than a year. Losses have increased from R56-million in 2022, R28-million in 2021, R14-million in 2020 and R20-million in 2019.

In the third quarter of 2023, the city recorded 201 cases of electricity vandalism and illegal connections in Mitchells Plain and Philippi.

On Saturday, the city released a statement on vandalism and electricity theft that occurred in September 2023, with 81 incidents recorded for Area South, 27 for Area North and 18 for Area East. The areas cover Mitchells Plain and Philippi, including the surrounding communities of Lotus River and Grassy Park.

Electricity theft

The City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Beverley van Reenen, told Daily Maverick last month that communities also needed to get involved to stop electricity theft.

Earlier this year, the city launched its energy safety team to assist law enforcement agencies and the South African Police Service in protecting critical electricity infrastructure in the metro,” she said.

Van Reenen said: “The team carries out disconnection operations across the metro on a regular basis. However, this is not only an issue for the city, Eskom or the police; it is also an issue at community level – we need to work together if we are to be successful.

“Illegal connections are often run by large, well-oiled and lucrative criminal syndicates. All authorities have to act to reduce these risks, including the community.”

‘I’ll drive over them’

On Monday, Eldinno Marthinus, a truck driver from Atlantis outside Cape Town, told Daily Maverick that illegal connections were not only found in Grassy Park or Philippi. 

“These connections are almost everywhere in our townships. It saddens me that other places are prioritised, but not us here in Atlantis. How can people remove it in other places and they can’t do it here?”

Marthinus added: “I frequently drive the truck on the main road in Atlantis and I always find those connections hanging across the road. This situation is bad and affects a lot of people. They get free electricity but we have to pay a lot of money for it. It really is unfair.

“The last time, I had to wait for them to finish their connections before I could pass with the truck. But next time I’m not doing that. I’ll drive over them, even if it means I pull their wires down,” said Marthinus.

‘It exacerbates crime’

Philippi resident Bonga Zamisa (29) told Daily Maverick that illegal connections affected his family.

“These illegal connections are dangerous. It impacts schools and communities because we’re always subjected to darkness. It exacerbates crime and creates an opportunity for criminals to do their activities,” he said.

“Eskom is often reluctant to come and repair the damage. It’s not fair to people like us who pay for their electricity.

“The city should educate residents about the dangers and consequences of illegal connections, and also deploy more visible law enforcement at these hotspots that could deter residents from illegally connecting to the power supply,” said Zamisa.

‘People become victims’

Meanwhile, Dumisani Qwabe, the secretary of the Community Policing Forum in Philippi, told Daily Maverick that people become victims of crime due to illegal connections.

“This issue of illegal connections stems from informal settlements around Philippi… these are the Ramaphosa, Siyanyanzela and Siyahlala informal settlements,” said Qwebe.

He said that “institutions such as Mzamomhle Primary School and Inzame Zabantu Clinic are also affected by these illegal connections. And when there is no electricity it is very difficult to move around and many people become victims of crime. It increases house and street robberies.

“We need a collective approach from all government entities to find a viable solution. We also need to take responsibility as a community to ensure that we live in a safe environment,” Qwabe said. DM

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