An exploratory study on electricity theft in Staram informal settlement in Tongaat in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province.
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This study focussed on electricity theft in Staram, an informal settlement in Tongaat, Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal. Staram was chosen as the study site as the Tongaat area has been identified as a ‘hot spot’ for electricity theft in Durban. The objectives of the study were to (i) explore the causes of electricity theft in Staram and (ii) assess the nature of electricity theft in Staram; (iii) examine the challenges of responding to electricity theft in Staram; and (iv) evaluate the current preventative measures employed for mitigating electricity theft in Staram. Staram is divided into three sections: Endliniyomlilo, Harry and Eziweni, and the study covered all these sections. At the time of the study, Endliniyomlilo was electrified and about 12 houses had maintained their electricity; the other two sections did not have electricity. For this study, in-depth, face-to-face interviews were employed for data collection. This study consisted of 15 participants who were chosen on the basis that in-depth data via in-depth interviews could be elicited in order to achieve all the objectives. Five participants were selected from each of the three sections. They were chosen because they were residents in the area of study as well as victims and/or perpetrators of electricity theft. The data were collected in February 2017. This study was informed by Beccaria (1767) Rational Choice Theory (RCT), Shaw and McKay’s (1942) Social Disorganisation Theory (SDT), and the Chicago School of Criminology’s (1942) Economic Theory. This study used RCT and SDT in understanding the manner in which people engage themselves in electricity theft. The Economic Theory was used to understand the causes of electricity theft, as it is argues that criminal acts are committed in instances where the amount of gain from a crime is greater than the costs expected, while also being concerned with how society utilises its scarce resources (Becker, 1968:820). It is important to understand that electricity theft is a global problem and it has a negative impact not only on human but also economic terms. This study determined that electricity theft affects everyone, physically endangers people’s lives and socially, can cause an overload of the network, which can result in unplanned outages. As such, electricity theft can negatively affect the smooth operation of traffic lights, business practices or the emergency services such as hospitals and affects the economy and puts undue strain on the municipality and the government revenue.