Minister Brown berates illegal power connections

Pretoria - Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Wednesday criticised the continued use of illegal connections which over the past few days have led to massive power outages in Soweto and other parts of Gauteng.

The Minister’s comments follow the massive power outage experienced by residents of Soweto in the past few days and other areas around Gauteng. This, as the power frequently goes out at about the same time on cold winter nights and people mistake these outages for load shedding.

The Minister added that these illegal connections also endanger the lives of people.

She further added that power utility Eskom has not implemented load shedding for 10 months, except for 2 hours and 20 minutes during this period.

“Eskom will inform its customers, including municipalities and the general public, before it implements load shedding. The network overloads because too many people are trying to use a network which is designed for one household per stand. Also, customers who are not paying for their electricity tend to be wasteful in the way they use it,” said Minister Brown.

The Minister further added that Eskom had informed her that there are areas that have smart metres in Soweto which are unlikely to have overloading.

“So there is a need to accelerate smart metre deployment and for the communities to support this programme as it improves the quality of their supply and ensures safety.”

Eskom installs fuses or circuit breakers that switch off when the load gets to dangerous levels, thus preventing the transformer from exploding. However sometimes residents bypass these safety features and the transformer does explode.

“Not only is this dangerous, but these transformers may take hours or days to repair. I remain concerned about the safety of the communities which may be at risk due to the escalating number of illegal connections, meter bypassing or tampering (electricity theft) and vandalism to electricity infrastructure,” she said.

The Minister said illegal connections as well as electricity theft overstretch resources slowing down Eskom and the municipalities’ service delivery to legal power users.

“This also includes overloading call centres where agents handle over a thousand calls every 30 minutes.

“It is unacceptable that people are still continuing with illegal connections, while government has a free basic electricity policy to protect the indigent from high electricity prices.

“These illegal connections are putting residents and especially children at risk of being electrocuted,” explained Minister Brown.

The Minister also pointed out that the aging infrastructure is stretched to capacity with illegal connections.

“I appeal to citizens to support Eskom’s operation Khanyisa and report illegal connections to the police,” said Minister Brown.