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Indaba calls for unity to curb electricity theft

South Africa loses R20-billion a year due to electricity theft compared with the R200-billion loss suffered by electricity utilities worldwide.

This was revealed by electricity utility Eskom’s Dileep John during his address at the close of the 65th conference of the Convention of the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) in Southern Africa at Emfuleni in the Vaal on Wednesday October 5.

The three-day convention attracted hundreds of delegates from across Southern Africa. They included representatives of the City of Johannesburg and other municipalities. The annual gathering brings together role players with the aim of finding new and innovative ways to generate, manage and distribute electricity to consumers. 

John said electricity theft was fuelled by the perception that thieves do not get caught. He said, however, that increased co-operation with municipalities was beginning to yield fruitful results.

“We should continue to send the message that there will be consequences for those who illegally use electricity. We should not stop talking to our customers because any solution that we seek should include them,” said John.

Other speakers said Eskom should include municipalities in its Operation Khanyisa campaigns if it wanted to change customer behaviour. Co-operation, skills transfer and funding were dominant features at the conference. Speakers highlighted the poor funding of municipalities to meet their service delivery targets while having to confront the technological and skills gaps in the most important layer of government.

Newly elected AMEU President and Head of the Electrical Department at Emfuleni Municipality Moferefere Tshabalala said municipalities must exchange ideas and each other to improve services. He told delegates that though challenges might differ in scale they were identical in most municipalities and it was important that co-operation was encouraged.

“We need to realise the importance of working as a unit and tackling challenges that emanate in our spaces knowing that we can seek help and guidance from other municipalities. It helps no one to work in silos and this conference has proven that there is a need to join forces,” Tshabalala said.

The use of smart meters, the importance of which Local Government and Traditional Affairs Minister David van Rooyen emphasised on Monday when he opened the conference, was again a talking point, with delegates saying they were monitoring the City of Johannesburg on how it was rolling out the project.

More than half of Johannesburg electricity meters are now smart meters and this move has led to a decrease in billing queries. Electricity service providers pledged to work together towards a common goal. Tshabalala promised to increase co-operation between municipalities and the private sector.