TCM staff caught stealing electricity

LYDENBURG – Thaba Chweu Municipality (TCM) is on the warpath against the overt theft of electricity in the area. It has also implicated 21 of its own employees who have breached meter boxes, sending out a clear message that theft will not be tolerated.

Acting municipal manager, Mr Lesley Mokwena, together with acting chief financial officer, Mr Gareth Mnisi and management members Mr Mike Mashilo and Mr Surprise Maebela told Steelburger/Lydenburg News on Wednesday that the prerogative was to gain public confidence.

“We inspected our own employees and councillors’ houses and found 19 employees from Sabie and two from Mashishing who were feeding off the system for free. “All 21 employees had breached meters. Of course they have a lot of excuses, but we have, in terms of our creditcontrol policies, fined them a R5 000 breach fee which is payable immediately and sent them letters to which they have to respond within 15 days as to why they should not be suspended. It is an incredibly serious transgression,” Mokwena said. They had also identified electricians within TCM who are assisting residents to breach their meters.

“That is one area that we have identified and we are working to correct it.” He added that Mnisi had also already applied a deduction amount to the salaries of the guilty employees for the free consumption during which their meters had been breached. Mnisi said as an institution they had to start correcting from within. “Any employee of TCM is first and foremost a resident of TCM. We embarked on this project and screened all employees and all councillors within the municipality. We received complaints about staff breaching meters and this is our way of telling the community that we listen to them and make them a priority.

“Our system can show us when last a coupon for electricity was purchased and from there we charge them for consumption of an average household usage which is about R800 per month, working back from the last coupon purchased. That amount must be paid within 24 months.” They had seen a definite improvement since TCM started with the removal of illegal connections. “The benefits can be seen. “The Eskom account has been under control.

In fact, the utility has sent out disconnection notices to other municipalities and TCM was not included.” Mokwena said this was a team effort. “It will take the initiative of TCM to correct this, but also the commitment of the community to assist us. We urge them to support us on this and inform us of electricity theft. One hand washes the other. If we don’t take care of it now, we will all sit in the dark if Eskom decides to disconnect our power. We need the commitment of our staff and the full support of our communities.

If everyone starts working together and buying electricity, revenue will start improving.” TCM has in the past months removed thousands of illegal connections in Sabie, Mashishing, Graskop and Coromandel. Mokwena said it is out in the open and they are trying their best as a municipality. “Council has also approved a project last Friday for the implementation of smart meters, which are impossible to breach, all over TCM. This will eradicate meter tampering.”

Residents should come forward and report breached meters to the municipality. “If residents come forward we can implement an amnesty policy. If they are honest about their breached meters, we will give them amnesty and supply them with a new one.”

Narda Vermaak

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