Eskom lost over R22 billion in revenue from illegal connections last year, with R7 billion lost in Gauteng alone.
This is according to Mashangu Xivambu, senior manager for maintenance and operations at the state-owned utility, who spoke to BusinessDay about Eskom’s efforts to combat illegal connections.
Xivambu said that Eskom lost R22 billion from “non-technical issues” last year, with a third lost in Gauteng.
Last week, Eskom conducted inspections of its infrastructure and removed illegal connections in Marlboro, Johannesburg.
The utility also disconnected residents at Setjwetla in Alexandra who had illegally connected their households to substations.
Residents there have also built homes under Eskom pylons, which the utility said is dangerous and illegal.
The operations are part of the company’s campaign to boost revenue lost to illegal connections and the strain they put on its infrastructure.
“[Eskom is losing a lot of money] that we were supposed to use to maintain our plants, making sure we create an infrastructure that will ensure people have reliable electricity,” Xivambu said.
He added that illegal connections cause network faults, and customers switched off during load-shedding end up suffering unscheduled outages thereafter.
“Customers will be off because we have network faults generated by these illegal connections. The connections are not properly done, not protected, and as a result [the network trips],” Xivambu said.
The country would avoid two stages of load-shedding if Eskom could root out illegal connections in Gauteng alone.
Clampdown on illegal connections
President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africans that plans are in the pipeline to end load-shedding, which includes returning Eskom’s generation capacity to optimum performance.
“This responsibility will be given to capable and qualified individuals. We will also lead a campaign against illegal connections,” he said.
Many people are sceptical about Ramaphosa’s promises as it is nothing they have not heard before.
In September 2015, Ramaphosa told the country load-shedding would be over by September 2017 at the latest.
“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power or energy and Eskom ever existed,” he said.
Load-shedding continued, and on 30 September 2019, Ramaphosa told the country “a clear strategy to place Eskom on a sustainable path of recovery” was being finalised.
Last week, Eskom technicians abandoned part of their operation to remove illegal connections in Marlboro industrial area for safety reasons.
People living illegally in an abandoned factory had allegedly connected electricity illegally and threatened to burn down nearby factories if Eskom cut the cables.