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‘Unreasonable levy’ puts Ekurhuleni under the spotlight

“We feel the community cannot be kept responsible for the theft of municipal infrastructure,” says Jurie Ferreira, AfriForum district coordinator for the East Rand.

AfriForum sent the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) application to the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) regarding fee charges on stolen service connection cables.

According to AfriForum, a memorandum issued by the CoE energy department indicates a fee of R1 725 will be charged to residents’ municipal accounts when consumers are without power due to cable theft.

Jurie Ferreira, the AfriForum district coordinator for the East Rand, said this memorandum underlines the fact that the energy department will not task any contractors with any repair work in case of theft until this charge has been settled.

AfriForum’s branches in the East Rand requested the municipality in terms of PAJA on July 19 to explain what led to the implementation of this ‘unreasonable levy’.

“This decision is extremely unreasonable as consumers are already paying for this service that the municipality is responsible for. Residents cannot be held responsible for covering the municipality’s costs. It remains the municipality’s responsibility to keep their infrastructure safe or replace stolen cables,” explained Ferreira.

A suspect detained by the EMPD. Photo: EMPD

He said AfriForum’s legal team would follow the necessary processes if the municipality continues with this ‘absurd idea’.

Speaking to the Alberton Record, he said, “We have heard rumours that the CoE implemented this decision a while back.

“There was never a public participation opportunity that we know about where the CoE shared this information with the community. We were only recently made aware of this. We have requested the reasons for this decision.

“Should they experience a crime issue, it has to be addressed by the relevant department and not shifted to the community,” said Ferreira.

Implementation of the by-law

CoE spokesperson, Zweli Dlamini, confirmed that costs would be recovered from concerned customers.

The 2022 memorandum supplied by CoE. Photo: CoE

He said Customer Care Services would provide the customer with a quotation based on the average of the estimated labour, transport, material and administration fees for single-phase residential connections.

“For a first occurrence, it is R1 500 excluding VAT, a second occurrence R1 500 excluding VAT, and third and subsequent occurrences R1 500 excluding VAT. The engineer may withhold future replacement of a continuously stolen cable,” he explained.

Before the 2010 memorandum, he said the city experienced theft of customer service connection cables. He stated since the original introduction of a fee, coupled with the requirement of reporting to the SAPS, the number of incidents reduced.

According to Dlamini, the decision has been in place for at least 13 years. He assured the fee is a fraction of the cost the CoE carries to replace the stolen service connection.

“The actual cost of replacement may exceed R5 000 when considering material and labour costs. The CoE has an existing network consisting of tens of thousands of kilometres of cables and overhead conductors. The security measures focus on protecting primary substations and the medium and high-voltage hot-spot cable routes,” he says.

A dug up trench after a service cable was stolen. Photo: EMPD

Dlamini reiterated the by-law implementation was not new, as the council passed the by-law in 2002.

“The 2022 memorandum is the implementation of the city’s electricity by-laws of 2002. This is also a review of the existing circular dating to 2010.”

Procedure to follow

For single households affected by stolen cables, the procedure will be:

• Report stolen cables to CoE and get a reference number

• ThGogo on Facebook to SAPS report the same and get a case number

• Get a case number and affidavit, and go to the energy department where you fill in a form and pay R1 500

• Once the department has proof of payment, the energy department will fix the individual connection

When an entire block of households is affected the following applies:

• Report the stolen cable to the CoE

• Once a reference number has been received, the energy department will follow up and replace the cable(s).

EMPD’s intervention in combating cable theft

EMPD spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Kelebogile Thepa said a national instruction was given to establish infrastructure task teams to fight the scourge of cable theft.

“The EMPD cable theft unit is responsible for the security and safety of various role players such as energy, Eskom, cell phone network providers Telkom and security companies. This is not an isolated but collaborative effort with SAPS,” she explained.

She said everyone caught in the act would face a charge of damaging essential infrastructure.

“This includes the digging out and possession of a ‘stolen cable’. “Perpetrators will face the full might of the law.

“The EMPD further warned against acts of vandalism as it encroaches on service delivery and exacerbates acts of criminality due to reduced visibility caused by an interrupted power supply,” warned Thepa.

A cable seized after it was stolen. Photo: EMPD

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