Should Council increase the fines on those who steal power?

Are the current fines for stealing electricity too soft and not a deterrent?
That was the issue debated at a recent Council meeting. Councillor Anthon Raubenheimer said the R2800 fine for a repeat offender who bridges his electricity supply to avoid paying is ‘laughable’.
“In Vryheid the fines are far more of a deterrent – R10 000 for a first offence and then R20 000 and R30 000. We must relook at this policy.”
Electricity theft accounts for around a R25-million loss a year for Endumeni Municipality.
A private company has been hired to audit every meter in the municipal area but the meeting heard that ‘the hostile environment in Ward 3 (Sithembile) meant that auditors find it difficult to check those meters’.
Siduduzo Mdluli proposed that fines should be increased and those repeat offenders should be arrested and charged criminally.
“We need to implement strong deterrents.
“The problem needs to be confronted head-on. We will be unpopular for some weeks and then people will co-operate,” he said.
Speaker Bongiwe Mbatha Makhathini agreed saying that people in leadership ‘must sometimes take unpopular decisions as our task is to collect revenue to ensure we can deliver services’.
She added that the issue of property valuations and indigents must also be addressed.
Councillor Hope Xaba had raised the issue earlier that the property valuations had put the value of some homes at around R500 000 even though those living there were deemed to be indigent.

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“There was a case of an old lady living in one of these houses with her two sons and no one was working.
“They survive on a grant of R1600 a month and once they have paid rates there is hardly anything left.
“We need our Finance Department to ensure that the policies do not strip people of their dignity.
“There has to be a change in our indigent policy to prevent issues like this,” he said.
He added that putting people in perpetual poverty leads to residents ‘being forced to steal electricity to simply live’.
Councillor Callie Carelse said the issue had been workshopped earlier with Councillors and officials and there had been an opportunity at the workshop to give input.
Speaker Mbatha Makhathini said issues like this were a reality and she recalled the time she gave an indigent family R1000 ‘from her own pocket’ to assist a family with a funeral because they were in dire straits.
“It is crucial that the municipality closes the gap between the Council and the community so we can assist the vulnerable in our community.

  AUTHOR
Terry Worley
Editor

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