It’s emerged that it costs Eskom about R1 billion a year to tackle illegal connections in Gauteng alone.
The bulk of the money is spent on fixing or replacing damaged transformers, which often blow up because of overloading.
Eskom has been aggressive in its response in the last few weeks, targeting areas where illegal connections persisted.
“That kind of transformer costs on average R80,000. This costs Eskom in Gauteng alone R1 billion a year to replace this infrastructure destroyed by illegal connections and this mostly happens where people bluntly refuse to pay for electricity,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said.
Eskom on Sunday said that its decision to enforce load reduction in parts of the country was made to save the utility billions of rand and protect the customers who paid their electricity bills.
For weeks now, Eskom has been cutting off power supply in areas where transformers are overloaded and at risk of damage due to illegal connections.
Eskom said that Soweto, Diepsloot, large parts of the Vaal, Tshwane, and Ekurhuleni were some of the country’s biggest culprits when it came to illegal connections, which placed an enormous amount of pressure on the grid.
The power utility has since started limiting supply either during the early mornings or evenings in a desperate bid to ease the load.
Mantshantsha said that, unfortunately, that meant that paying customers in those areas were affected.
“We have made a decision that rather than inconveniencing our customers for that number of days, and of course which can also help us in protecting the infrastructure, we will switch off power in the hours when most damage occurs,” he said.
Majorobena Mokoena who owns a spaza shop in Orlando in Soweto said this was not fair.
“Eskom should come in and audit every household and cut off power to those who are connecting illegally,” he said.
Eskom said load reduction would continue for the foreseeable future.