The Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, says that the power outages in Soweto are not as a result of Eskom load shedding, but rather are because of illegal connections.
Minister Brown’s comments follow the massive power outage experienced by residents of Soweto in the past few days and other areas around Gauteng.
The department noted that power frequently goes out at about the same time on cold winter nights and people mistake these outages for load shedding.
It stressed that Eskom has not implemented load shedding for 10 months, except for two hours and 20 minutes during this period. Eskom will inform its customers including municipalities and the general public before it implements load shedding.
“The network overloads because too many people are trying to use a network which is designed for one household per stand. Also, customers who are not paying for their electricity tend to be wasteful in the way they use it,” Brown said.
“Eskom informs me that the areas that have smart metres in Soweto are unlikely to have overloading. So there is a need to accelerate smart metre deployment and for the communities to support this programme as it improves the quality of their supply and ensures safety
“Eskom installs fuses or circuit breakers that switch off when the load gets to dangerous levels, thus preventing the transformer from exploding. Sometimes residents bypass these safety features and the transformer does explode. Not only is this dangerous, but these transformers may take hours or days to repair,” the minister said.
Brown pointed to an escalating number of illegal connections, meter bypassing or tampering (electricity theft) and vandalism to electricity infrastructure.
“Illegal connections and electricity theft overstretch our resources slowing down Eskom and the municipalities’ service delivery to legal power users. This also includes overloading call centres where agents handle over a thousand calls every 30 minutes.
“It is unacceptable that people are still continuing with illegal connections, while Government has a free basic electricity policy to protect the indigent from high electricity prices,” Brown said.