‘Rich’ South Africans busted for stealing electricity

 ·30 May 2024

The City of Joburg’s power utility, City Power, says it has converted over 10,000 ‘non-vending’ smart prepaid meters back to post-paid meters, mainly in affluent areas and properties belonging to businesses.

These meters have been non-vending for over three months and were found to have been bypassed, delivering free electricity. The city is continuing to investigate and convert more of these meters.

“The decision to convert all these non-purchasing customers’ meters follows a routine inspection that exposed prepaid meters that have not been vending for a period of three months and above,” the city said.

“City Power has spent millions of rands in installing smart meters across Johannesburg and deplores this behaviour from customers who are sitting with non-vending meters only so that they can enjoy free electricity.

The city said that these customers have not only been ‘fiddling’ with the electricity equipment—which may cause network overload and subsequently prolonged outages—but also hampered the utility’s ability to provide stable power and collect revenue.

City Power as a whole is sitting with around R10 billion debt from non-paying customers, it said.

“We urge residents to desist from tampering with our electricity infrastructure by bypassing meters as this is not only a criminal offence but may lead to the circuit malfunctioning in the area.

“As a result of a circuit malfunction, customers may start experiencing power surges and equipment shocking them in their homes, which may cause fires, serious injuries, or even fatalities.”

Electricity thieves will pay

The utility warned that customers who have not been vending for more than three months and are found to have bypassed their meters will be automatically converted to post-paid meters.

Once affected customers have been converted, the revenue recovery process will be followed from the date the meters stopped vending to recoup unpaid electricity consumption.

For instance, if a customer is found to have bypassed their pre-paid meter and has not been vending for 12 months, the utility will seek to recover that revenue.

“Thereafter, the newly installed meters will ensure accurate billing, and assist us in maintaining reliable electricity in all areas of supply as well as with monitoring and controlling the load during the implementation of higher stages of load-shedding.”

City Power said it continues to advocate for smart pre-paid meters, but some delinquent customers are abusing the system by bypassing meters and stealing electricity.

The utility is uncovering the theft through meter audits, resetting, and installation of smart prepaid meters across the City, which began in preparation for the TID rollover.

“The single visit task to residents’ premises requires that our authorised technicians access customers’ properties to replace the meters. City Power appeals to customers to allow our authorised meter technicians access to their properties to undertake this important task.

“If residents are not available, our technicians will leave a ‘No Access’ letter by the customer’s premises with the company name and contact details. In addition, we will provide the Service Delivery Centre (SDC) name and team leader’s contact details. Customers are urged to immediately make arrangements for the conversion.”

However, the utility said that customers who refuse authorised technicians entry to their premises will be handed over for disconnection as they are not purchasing electricity and are not connected directly to the grid.

“City Power understands there may be safety concerns, as some individuals might try to impersonate our personnel during this meter conversion period.

“We strongly urge customers to be vigilant and only allow entry to contractors presenting a valid ID card with the contractor’s company name and valid expiry date.

“No contractor should use another person’s ID card,” it said.

Read: R230 per month blow to prepaid electricity users in Joburg

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