Illegal connections and electricity theft are causing widespread damage in Madadeni, Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal – unfairly inconveniencing law-abiding and paying customers. The electricity network in these townships was designed for a maximum demand of 2kVA per stand, however illegal connections overload the transformers, resulting in power failures.
The area is infested with illegal connections, backyard shacks, bypassed meters and vandalised pillar boxes – factors which cause equipment to operate above their maximum operating parameters, which then reduces the lifespan of the equipment and results in network overloading and power failures in the area.
“Illegal connections and electrical contacts are the most common cause of injuries and fatalities in the province. Improper and illegal connections have dire consequences as they expose both adults and children to great risk. Madadeni is one area with a high prevalence of illegal connections in the province, hence our visit,”
says Lee Mchunu, Industry Support Manager, Eskom KZN.
Many South Africans get their electricity properly, but others still endanger their lives by connecting illegally, which often leads to serious and fatal injuries. An illegal electricity connection is one that is made to the Eskom network, either at a mini sub-station, a neighbour’s meter or electricity board, without Eskom’s permission or by non-Eskom personnel.
Electricity theft, including illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing, and the buying and selling of illegal prepaid vouchers remains a serious concern for South Africa, costing the economy approximately R20 billion yearly. Three quarters of this is reported to be losses suffered by municipalities.
“We also see the devastating results of children, and adults in some cases, getting seriously or fatally injured after making contact with electricity. It’s crucial that everyone understands how electricity works, travels and is used, to help reduce its danger as a powerful force that can result in fire, injury and death,”
says Mr Mchunu.
Eskom replaces damaged or failed equipment and in some cases upgrades the infrastructure, but this approach has proven not to be sustainable. Other interventions included the installation of protective structures, replacement of burnt fuses, retention of sagging conductors and load balancing on phases which are all expensive solutions.
As part of network maintenance, all open pillar boxes are closed and damaged infrastructure is normalised and increased security measures to deal with fraud related to meter bypasses and conductor theft have also been introduced.
To report any unsafe conditions or connections call: 08600 ESKOM (37566). These conditions include exposed electrical wiring, low-hanging cables, illegal connections, vandalised electrical equipment like substations, cable theft etc.