Eskom does have the right to disconnect electricity when tampering is suspected, but it must be done in a reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair manner.
That is essence of the Public Protector’s provisional report titled, “Who tampered?”, which has been leaked to the media before its final release.
The report was handed to Eskom on July 29, ordering it to immediately reconnect the Khumalo house in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, reverse its R12 000 tampering fine and determine a fair amount for the family to pay for the two years they did not pay electricity.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Eskom would not comment on the report until it has been finalised and officially released. However, he said Eskom tried and failed to reconnect the house last Friday because its occupant – Shorn Khumalo – intimidated and chased the technicians away.
“I will continue to chase Eskom out of our home for as long as they fail to practise simple business etiquette, such as arranging an appointment to reconnect our electricity,” Khumalo told Fin24 on Monday.
Khumalo’s complaint to the Public Protector came after Eskom disconnected his family’s home in February after his mother had reported the tampered meter.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said in the report that Eskom failed to exercise its power and responsibility to disconnect illegal or unauthorised consumption of electricity by failing to follow due process.
“Eskom does have the right to disconnect electricity in instances where tampering is suspected,” she said. “However, such power should be exercised in a reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair manner and in this instance, is not.”
Madonsela started the report by quoting Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, who said on 21 July 2016: “Being customer-centric ties in with the principle of Batho Pele, which enjoins us to put people first by improving our efficiency and accountability to the recipients of services that we provide.”
Madonesla said Eskom wrongfully and arbitrarily disconnected Khumalo’s electricity. She concluded that Eskom’s conduct constitutes maladministration, abuse of power and amounts to improper conduct.
The Public Protector’s office had requested Eskom to reconnect the house when it started its probe in March, but it said Eskom refused.
“The impact has been that the Khumalo’s have been unable to purchase prepaid electricity and have accordingly been without the use of electricity at their residence for five months.
“I … do not understand the rationale behind Eskom’s refusal to reconnect Mrs Khumalo back on the grid pending the Public Protector investigation, given the fact that any continued consumption would have been of prepaid electricity, which would not have meant further loss of revenue to it.
“Such conduct is at odds with Eskom’s duty to provide electricity and was further unreasonable and unfair in the circumstances,” she said.
“During the five months of inability to purchase pre-paid electricity, the Khumalo’s have relied on neighbours for some of their electricity needs …,” said Madonsela.
“The neighbours often assist the Khumalo’s with ironing their clothes and charging cellphones. For cooking, the Khumalo’s have since bought a gas stove and have also bought a paraffin heater to boil water to take baths.”