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92 bust as municipality clamps down on illegal electricity connections



Staff Reporter

At least 92 houses in Ngwathe Local Municipality in northern Free State have been drawing electricity directly from the main supply lines without any meters installed to measure and regulate their consumption, an official has said.

Municipal spokesperson Steve Nale told The Free Stater in a telephone interview Thursday that illegal connections were putting a major strain on their supplies, thereby prompting them to revamp the electricity meter system in the municipality.

The municipality has also approached Eskom to increase the amount of electricity it receives as it has now been forced to resort to load shedding due to increased demand.

“That’s the sad reality, unfortunately,” said Nale.

“We have so many people with illegal connections and that’s putting a major strain on our supplies.

“We found about 92 houses that didn’t have any meters and they were just getting electricity direct from the pole, which is very dangerous.

“Also, when people don’t pay for electricity, we don’t generate any revenue.”

Nale said they were faced with three scenarios regarding the electricity meters and some of them are now being replaced in order to have a regulated consumption.

“Some of the meters are faulty, maybe due to age, and some have been tampered with. Such meters have to be replaced,” he said.

“We also have those houses without any meters, yet they are drawing electricity. We have to install new ones there.”

Nale said local councillors are moving around with the teams inspecting and replacing the electricity meters to ensure there is no resistance from residents who could mistake the people for conmen.

Ngwathe municipality currently owes Eskom about R1 billion but it has been forced to enter into negotiations for increased supplies so that businesses and other law-abiding residents are not affected by load shedding.

“We have a payment arrangement with Eskom which we have never defaulted on,” Nale said.

“Our revenues are low but we are trying our best to honour our obligations so that residents and businesses don’t suffer.”

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg confirmed in a statement that Ngwathe municipality had approached the national power utility for an increase in supplies.

“Ngwathe Local Municipality and Eskom had a second engagement on the amount of electricity supplied to the municipality, also known as Notified Maximum Demand (NMD),” read part of the statement.

NMD is the contracted amount of electricity that Eskom reserves for supplying a customer in the Electricity Supply Agreement.

In terms of this agreement, Eskom is contractually obliged to provide 21 mega volt amp (MVA) to Ngwathe municipality.

Van Rensburg said on May 25 the municipality exceeded its contracted NMD and Eskom subsequently applied NMD limitation in order to keep the amount within the contracted agreement.

Confirming Nale’s explanation, Van Rensburg said a major contributor going beyond the NMD is meter tampering and or illegal connections.

“As a result of these illegal activities, the municipality is unable to recover income and pay Eskom for services rendered,” she said.

“Paying customers unfortunately are impacted by consumers that opt to tamper and or connect illegally.”

In terms of the NMD limitation, a municipality is informed when the NMD reaches 90 percent of its load so it can apply load reduction.

If the municipality does not respond by reducing its demand, Eskom is forced to open its supply breaker, resulting in interruption of supply to the municipality.

NMD limiting, according to the statement, is a necessity to ensure that essential equipment is not stressed which can lead to damage and failure when design limits are exceeded.

Ultimately, NMD limiting is implemented to ensure the integrity of the system and protection of the community in which the equipment is hosted.

“Ngwathe Local Municipality has resubmitted an application to increase the amount of electricity supplied in the agreement. NMD increase is not automatically granted by Eskom as there are conditions that must be accepted by defaulting municipalities,” she said in the statement.

Van Rensburg said in a written response that Ngwathe is applying for an upgrade of about seven points to their current level of 21 MVA.


Centlec warns cable theft masterminds



STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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Jilted lover up for double murder



A 30-year-old man will appear in the Viljoenskroon Magistrates Court this Wednesday facing two charges of murder.

Fezile Dabi district police spokesperson Captain Malebo Khosana said the man was arrested for the double murder after he went to his ex-girlfriend’s house at about 4am on Saturday.

“He suspected that the ex-girlfriend was sleeping with the current boyfriend,” said Malebo in a statement.

“Upon . . . arrival at the ex-girlfriend’s home, he stabbed her to death and hit her son with a hammer on the head,” added the police spokesperson.

The suspect then fled the scene.

He is said to have told the police that thought the little boy was the woman’s current boyfriend.

Paramedics were called to the scene and declared both the 34-year-old mother and her 14-year-old son dead on the scene.

The suspect was later arrested after police were tipped of his whereabouts by community members.

The actual motive for the attack is still being investigated. – Staff Reporter

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Killer of businessman Helepi jailed for life



SLAIN BUSINESSMAN . . . Tavern owner and former footballer Lejoni Alfred Helepi was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein

The man accused of killing Bloemfontein businessman and former Moroka Swallows FC player Lejoni Alfred Helepi in March 2016 has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Free State High Court after being extradited from Lesotho.

Ntsane Togowe, 42, was given an additional 15 years by Judge Pitso Molitsoane on Monday after he was convicted of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Helepi was killed in his bathroom on March 29, 2016 in the robbery which included four other accused persons.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the slain businessman was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein, where he operated a tavern.

The accused took about R40 000 and fled the scene using Helepi’s vehicle.

The vehicle was later found abandoned in Phelindaba.

The high-profile case suffered a major setback in November 2016 when the Bloemfontein Regional Court struck it off the roll after the state failed to secure a trial date at the High Court and finalise investigations “within a reasonable period”.

Togowe and his co-accused, namely Baninzi Gxama Dira Moreenyane, Ntabiseng Clementinah Lempe and Maseboko Alice Majake, had spent about nine months in custody.

Their lawyer, Saintin Seitheisho, successfully argued against further remand saying the state had been given adequate time to finalise their investigations and set a trial date.

The matter was stood down for several hours to allow the state to come back with information on when the case could proceed, but it failed to do so, leaving the presiding officer with no choice but to strike the matter off the court roll and proceed by way of summons.

That decision inadvertently allowed some of the accused to disappear and the police could not find them when the case was supposed resume.

“Togowe handed himself over to the police in 2018, after widespread reports that he was wanted for the murder of Helepi and he was released on bail,” said NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

Togowe, who is believed to have pulled the trigger on the fateful day, eventually stood trial alone after he was granted bail.

But in October 2018, he mysteriously disappeared from the High Court after the judge briefly adjourned the matter to allow him to deliver judgment in the afternoon.

A warrant was immediately issued for his arrest.

“He allegedly escaped to Lesotho without a passport as it was handed to the investigating officer as part of his bail conditions. He was arrested for robbery in Lesotho on July 27, 2019 and the Hawks, upon knowing his whereabouts, started the process of extraditing him to South Africa. This was successfully done on 8 December 2021,” said Shuping.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Lucky Bontes requested the court to impose harsh punishment on the accused because he failed to show any remorse as he denied being involved in the murder and robbery of the deceased even after his conviction.

“The deceased was killed in the comfort of his own home, after taking a shower and one of the witnesses had to cover his body with a blanket,” said Bontes.

“It was obvious that he was not carrying a weapon but they shot him twice and there was no reason to kill him because they could have just taken whatever they wanted . . .”

Gxama was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in June 2019.

The other three suspects, Moreenyane, Lempe and Majake are still at large.

Police made their first break-through in the matter just a day after the incident when Majake admitted to having planned the robbery with the other four.

Following the arrest of Majake and Lempe, the two women — both employed by Helepi at the time — then assisted the police to find the three men.

Togowe and Gxama are said to have stormed Helepi’s Tavern and demanded cash.

In a well-orchestrated move, the two are said to have held Majake and Lempe hostage in the tavern, yet they part of the robbery scheme.

They went on to demand keys to the safe.

At that point, the court heard, Togowe allegedly went to the bathroom in the house where Helepi was taking a shower and shot him in the upper body.

He collapsed and died on the spot.

The pair then took the cash, Helepi’s gun, three cellphones, house keys and several sets of car keys before fleeing the scene in a bakkie which belonged to the businessman.

They later abandoned it.

Free State Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Navilla Somaru has commended Lesotho police, the Hawks and the prosecutor for their commitment in ensuring that Togowe was brought to book for the murder of Helepi. – Staff Reporter

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