Covid in the Kasi – Eskom Interview

COVID IN THE KASI – LOCKDOWN DAY 102

Diepsloot residents have been plagued by power outages since the beginning of June. Covid in the Kasi citizen journalist, Katlego, took the initiative of interviewing the ward councillor and Eskom media officials to find out why this is happening and what solutions they are working on.

Cllr. Mabuke informed us that Eskom is busy fixing transformers but will not restore electricity to Extensions 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 until residents’ fines are paid up. He recommended that we seek further information directly from Eskom and referred us to media official, Tumi Moloi.

Katlego: What is the reason behind power cuts in Diepsloot?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom has noted a significant rise in network overloading resulting from illegal connections across the high density areas of Gauteng. This overloading is also apparent in areas with multiple or backyard dwellings, bypassed meters, and vandalism of the electricity infrastructure. These illegal connections and tampering with Eskom equipment result in damages to electrical infrastructure such as transformers, mini-substations and substations in these areas. Transformers and mini-substations often fail or explode due to this overloading. These illegal connections, meter bypasses and other theft-related activities on our infrastructure are the leading cause for the sporadic and prolonged electricity interruptions, which leave the communities without power for days. Diepsloot is one such area.

Katlego: How is the situation affecting Eskom?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom is not in a position to continuously replace mini substations and pole mounted transformers in particular areas where the residents are not paying for their electricity. Non-payment of electricity does not only impact on the security of supply for paying customers, but also contributes to increased energy and revenue losses coupled with increased operational costs. Eskom replaces mini substations and pole mounted transformers on a regular basis due to overloading caused by illegal connections. This is not sustainable, and not in line with Eskom’s revenue management practice and efforts to improve on its financial and operational objectives.

Katlego: How is Eskom planning to resolve the issue?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom continues to safeguard its assets by auditing, removing illegal connections and fixing bypassed meters in an effort to protect the network to operate optimally according to design capacity. Eskom is also implementing load reduction in identified areas with significantly high non-technical losses mainly in residential areas such as Diepsloot. It is Eskom’s immediate response is to safeguard its assets from repeated failure and explosions as a result of overloading caused by illegal connections, meter bypasses and tampering with electricity infrastructure that are on an increase. Eskom continues to record a substantially high trend of energy demand during peak periods in the mornings and evenings between 05:00 and 09:00, and again between 17:00 and 20:00 respectively.

Katlego: What can the community do to help Eskom resolve the issue?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom encourages communities to take ownership of the electricity infrastructure that supplies their areas and ensure that it’s safeguarded against illegal connections, vandalism and theft as these lead to the network overload which causes the infrastructure to fail or explode and subsequently leave customers with prolonged outages. We also urge customers to help us manage the load by switching off appliances such as heaters, stoves and geysers and only use when absolute necessary in order to stabilise the network at the local level without interruptions. We wish to also urge the community of Diepsloot to cooperate with Eskom by refraining from disrupting its technicians when operating in the area. Recently, Eskom technicians were attacked and pelted with stones in the area when they tried to remove illegal connections. Such behaviour is condemned as it places our employees at risk. We will always withdraw our employees in any area when their safety is threatened. This means that the area will remain without the Eskom support until we deem it safe for our employees to return to the area.

Katlego: According to the community, Eskom technicians are corrupt. What is Eskom doing to deal with corrupt technicians?

Tumi Moloi: Corrupt activities by Eskom employees are to be reported to Eskom and those implicated in such behaviour will be reported to the police and will also be subjected to the Eskom internal disciplinary processes. We therefore appeal to members of the public to report such illegal activities involving both Eskom and non-Eskom employees. The Eskom toll – free crime line number is 0800 11 27 22.

Katlego: How is Eskom planning to deal with illegal connections?

Tumi Moloi: The instant a customer is found to have tampered with a meter, through bypassing or any illegal means, such is disconnected, and illegal connections removed. Subsequently, a fine of R6 052.56 is issued to the customer. The customer’s supply is only restored once full payment has been made or the customer has signed a deferred payment agreement (DPA), in which case the customer can pay the fine within a six month period. Going forward, the customer purchasing pattern is closely monitored and where there is any suspicion a follow-up visit is made to the customer. A further penalty of a higher amount is then issued where a contravention has been found, up to the point where the entire electricity installation is removed. Should the customer still wish to have electricity, a new application would have to be made.

Overloading and vandalism of electrical infrastructure are some of the reasons for the ongoing power failures in Diepsloot. Based on the information we’ve gathered from Eskom and the ward councillor, they are doing what they can to resolve the issues, but can only do so with cooperation from the community.

By Katlego Jonathan Pule