Durban – An Eskom senior employee has allegedly uncovered corruption at the company where Eskom “technicians” were installing a “million rand ticket” – unlimited electricity usage for R900 – in the Hammarsdale area.
The senior employee said he and a colleague had made this discovery after working in the area for years.
“At some stage the area was littered with illegal street connections and the wires criss-crossed gardens, fields and open spaces. Eskom cleaned up the area and installed meters inside the houses. These technicians seemed to follow door-to-door not long after that, ” he said.
“In a township like Mpumalanga, life is a constant hustle. One day, while working, I came across this middle-aged single parent of two trying to make a living by running a small project from home.
“Electricity had started eating into her profits after Eskom cleared the area of illegal connections and installed a metered box in her home,” he said.
“It was then that an ‘Eskom technician’ offered her ‘electricity for life for only R900’, and he would tamper with the metered box. This is called the ‘million rand ticket’.
“The woman bought a R10 voucher and the technician fiddled with the meter to amass a lifetime of credits. He pocketed the R900 and moved on to the next struggling household,” the employee said.
He said the general mitigation “for their stealing ways” was half planted in their belief that essential services should be free for the poor, an expectation created by the government.
“The other half of their excuse was that Eskom and its board were much bigger thieves than themselves. The technicians who go door-to-door ‘nailing holes in the coffin of the bleeding beast’ do little to arrest the perception that Eskom is all about corruption, looting and plunder,” he said.
He felt some sort of education strategy on good citizenship was urgently required if this ‘widespread haemorrhaging is to be stopped’.
The power utility has been in a financial crisis lately and recently the Public Investment Corporation, which administers the Government Employees’ Pension Fund, announced its agreement to offer Eskom a R5 billion bailout.
At least four people who spoke to the Daily News knew about the “technicians”.
“It’s common near the Jozini area in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which has an informal settlement.
“I know there are Eskom people who are ‘helping’ the poor with safe connections when the old metered boxes are replaced with new ones,” said a woman who asked to be ‘left alone’ as the “million dollar ticket benefited the poor”.
Another resident said people should “not be deprived of electricity by virtue of their positions in the social stratification (sic)”.
She said government should instead offer affordable means of keeping up with the rising prices of commodities.
Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom’s national spokesperson, said these actions had a negative financial bearing on the parastatal.
He said people who connected to the grid illegally were risking their own well-being.
“If anything should happen due to an electrical fault, we send our people to investigate and if they find that you have connected illegally, then whatever liability would have been Eskom’s will be borne by the homeowner.
“If a house burns down due to an electrical fault, once we discover tampering the report we send to the person’s household insurance company will reflect just that, and no insurance company would pay out for any damages,” Phasiwe said.
He said there was no way of measuring the amount of electricity used illegally over a period of time.
However, transgressors in formal houses are cut off from the grid and the metered box is removed.
“The person will further pay a R6 000 fine. Reconnection onto the grid would cost a couple of thousands and the offender could wait for a long time before being connected. We give priority to other parts of KwaZulu-Natal and other areas which are not connected to the grid,” Phasiwe said.
He said Eskom repeat offenders faced dismissal and these cases would be handed over to the police for the offenders to be criminally charged.