Hundreds of illegal electricity connections were removed in the Lulekani area on the 11th of May last week when Eskom moved into the township. The technicians in Phalaborwa decended upon the Lulekani settlers and removed illegal connections from 50 homes resulting in revenue losses of more than R100 000 per month.

In a conversation with Bulletin, Mothogoane Lethekwane, the Energy Trading Manager at Eskom Phalaborwa, said that Eskom loses around R430 000 per month at the Lulekani Sewerage Works feeder. This, according to him amounts to R5.1 million per annum which is lost in revenue as their meters reflect that they are losing energy of about 427 687 GWH per year at Lulekani alone. “This feeder contains more than 1 500 customers that are stealing electricity,” he stated.

Approximately 20 round poles and two drums of illegally connected conductor cable was removed following complaints from members of the public about the dangerous wires that were running everywhere in the settlement. According to Lethekwane, illegal connections injure and kill many people every year, while countless others are severely injured from electrocution.

“People often think electricity theft is a victimless crime. We only realize the high price of this crime when we lose loved ones, often young children, who are killed by electrocution, something that has happened in Lulekani before, when they accidentally encounter live electricity wires from illegal connections,” said Lethekwane. “It is therefore our civic duty as the public to refrain from using illegal means of getting electricity and to report those who are involved in this crime to authorities.”

He mentioned that Illegal connections are also the leading cause of unplanned power outages, better known as load-shedding. Lethekwane mentioned that the feeder in Lulekani was operating at an average of 36% loss on both revenue collection and availability. “The feeder is within the top 5 of the poor performing feeders within the Selati CNC and it is also on the Eskom schedule of the ‘Load curtailment/reduction’ program to mitigate the overloading.”

He explained that network overloads because it is carrying more users than what it was designed for. Eskom installs circuit breakers that switch off when the load reaches dangerous levels‚ which prevents the transformers from exploding. But sometimes residents bypass these safety features, and the transformers eventually explode.

Lethekwane said that Eskom would continue to monitor the area to prevent reoccurrences, and that they would engage law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrators who illegally connected those houses. He also urged the community to report illegal connections by sending an anonymous SMS to the crime line on 32211 or calling 0800 1127 22.