The City of Johannesburg (COJ) has achieved a landmark legal victory against electricity theft after a court ruled it could cut off a block of flats in Hillbrow where residents only paid R15 per month.
The High Court of South Africa Gauteng Division ruled that it cannot compel the city to continue supplying electricity to a large residential block of flats in Hillbrow.
The block of flats has, for years, illegally connected itself to the grid and tampered with electricity meters to reduce their electricity bills.
“This court should not compel the COJ and City Power to sell electricity to someone who has effectively stolen it from them in the past,” the court ruled.
The COJ has been locked in a legal battle with the Hillbrow property for over a decade over disputed electricity payments.
Over the years, the property has sought court orders to prevent the city from disconnecting its electricity supply.
The city contended that the property owes more than R2.9 million, which has accumulated over the years because of short payments.
The Hillbrow property has 208 tenants and, in one month, only paid R1,948.59 for electricity for the entire block of flats.
The property could not explain how the 208 tenants could have consumed less than R15 worth of electricity every month over the years.
The judgement said the amount of electricity consumed by the occupants of the building is wholly unrealistic.
“This evidence demonstrates that the respondents’ claim that an illegal connection was discovered at the property is certainly not far-fetched or unrealistic,” it said.
Based on the figures above, the court agreed with the city that the electricity meter had been tampered with.
The judgment also found that interim interdicts have been abused to ensure the city does not cut off its power supply.
“A lot of debt owed is due to the illegal connection of services by businesses, residents, and big organisations, which needs to be recovered,” the COJ said.
“The city’s current debtor’s book is sitting at close to R48 billion for rates and taxes, sewer, electricity, and water, which is unsustainable.”
This judgement will give the COJ more teeth in tackling the problem of people not paying for electricity.