Vumacam, the CCTV division of Vumatel, has been accused of illegally connecting electricity from City Power through third-party agreements with Joburg residents.
The company has been accused of making deals with Joburg residents for electricity to power its Vumacam street cameras that have been deployed in 48 suburbs around the city.
Vumacam’s business model is based on providing its video feeds to security companies and enforcement agencies for a subscription fee, which is based on how many cameras they want access to.
As the cameras have rolled out across the city, residents have posted multiple times on social media about Vumacam entering into illegal agreements to buy electricity from Joburg residents.
A Facebook post by City of Johannesburg Councillor Amelia Bester on 14 August warned residents against entering into “an illegal agreement with Vumacam to sell them electricity”.
The post listed the consequences for tampering with electricity infrastructure and making illegal connections.
Concerned residents alerted City Power to this practice, who subsequently sent a letter of demand to Vumacam on 3 September stating that the activity was unlawful.
City Power demanded that Vumacam stop this practice and remove all the connections it had made with City Power customers by 10 September.
Two days later, Vumacam published a statement on its website which said it had always been its intention to be compliant, and that it would like to work together with City Power to find a solution to the problem.
“We engaged with City Power in 2017 prior to setting up Vumacam, and prior to commencing with the rollout of our CCTV Network, and we approached City Power requesting direct access to electricity supplied by City Power itself,” Vumacam said.
“Vumacam was presented with commercials that were prohibitively expensive for Vumacam to connect its cameras directly to the electrical grid.”
“It was therefore as a result of Vumacam’s engagement with City Power that Vumacam became aware that contracting with residents directly was an option,” the company said.
Vumacam labelled City Power’s stance “particularly confusing”, stating that it has engaged with the organisations and assisted it with fighting crime in Johannesburg.
Difference of opinion
One week after the publication of its initial statement, Vumacam published an update confirming that it had replied to City Power’s letter of demand.
“We have formally replied to this letter to say that we have a difference of opinion relating to the legal issues raised,” Vumacam said.
The company met with City power CEO Lerato Setshedi to attempt to work out a solution for the supply of power to its camera poles.
“Both parties have agreed to reserve their differing legal interpretations of the relevant legislation and regulations concerning the matter, pending the work of the duly appointed, joint technical, legal and commercial committee tasked with arriving at a solution,” it said.
“This solution will also ultimately inform the power requirement process for CCTV rollouts in the City of Joburg to be captured in the City’s proposed CCTV policy and bylaws currently under development in respect of public space.”
Vumacam said it would update residents on the progress of the committee as it worked with City Power to develop a more sustainable solution to supply electricity to its camera system.