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Mon Aug 29 05:51:33 SAST 2016

Cosatu calls for government to investigate power thieving businesses

NEO GOBA | 24 March, 2016 14:59
The privatisation of Eskom could hand over the headache of maintaining the service provider's plants to someone else.
Image by: Nardus Engelbrecht / Gallo Images

The Congress of South African Trade Unions yesterday called for a thorough investigation and stern action against all those businesses, which are found to have tempered with their electricity connections to avoid paying large amounts on their electricity bills.

This comes after Eskom revealed through its annual audits that over 52% of all electricity bridging is done by businesses including mining companies.

“It is criminal for mining companies to be retrenching people using electricity tariff hikes and the cost of doing business as an excuse, while they are also involved in electricity theft. For a long time ,electricity theft is treated as an act of poor people and vandals, when its actually big business that is stealing from the poor. Their blatant and criminal acts severely impact on government’s ability to deliver electricity and other badly needed services,” said Sizwe Pamla, COSATU’s national spokesperson.

In a statement, Pamla said the trade union expects the law enforcement agencies to make use of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act by imposing tougher sanctions and bail conditions on all vandals involved in this saga.

“We demand that all managers and executives of the implicated companies be detained and be forced to apply for bail in court like all criminals. We also expect them to be given mandatory sentence periods if convicted and be treated like the common criminals’ that they are.

“This also vindicates COSATU for insisting that Eskom’s challenges are as a result of their inefficiencies. Their failure over a period of time, to maintain their plants and stop electricity theft is what is central to the Eskom crisis. It is also self-serving for big business organisations to support calls for the privatisation of Eskom, when they are the ones responsible for its failures through electricity theft,” added Pamla.

Pamla said they have said in the past, that by privatising Eskom, “government will be literally abandoning the poor and leaving them at the mercy of the market forces.”

Debt collection from municipalities and small power users remains a concern and Eskom said it is working closely with the department of public enterprises, the co-operative governance and traditional affairs (CoGTA) department and Treasury at both provincial and national level to address the systemic causes of the municipal arrear debt.

At a local municipality level, Eskom has made available cross-functional teams to share best practices in managing electricity portfolios.

Eskom said it is fighting illegal connections, but the battle is not easily won.

“Every time we find illegal connections we remove them,” the company said. However, the problem with illegal connections in some areas is that they get reinstalled immediately after being removed. The power utility said there is a continuous battle between the utility and the residents in these areas, and sometimes it is forced to call the police to assist.

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