Disdain for authority: Dainfern’s power arrears is even more shocking than its decor
It isn’t the theft of electricity itself or the number of freeloaders that confuse me. It is the sums involved
When I read this week that Johannesburg City Power had cut off electricity to a number of freeloading customers in Dainfern, I must confess that I was confused.
It wasn’t the theft of electricity itself that confused me, of course. Dainfern is in South Africa, and contempt for the law and the social contract is as South African as fighting over whether Heritage Day is about thinking about history or burying it under a pile of lamb chops.
It wasn’t the number of freeloaders, either. According to reports, officials visited 10 properties and cut the power to six of them, but revealed that there are 204 properties in Dainfern Proper, Dainfern Extension and Dainfern Ridge that are in substantial arrears. This also didn’t strike me as unusual, since the rich didn’t get that way by paying what they owe.
What in the name of Brian Molefe and bent rubber things are these people doing with all that electricity?
I wasn’t even surprised by the media referring to Dainfern as “luxurious” and “posh” when its most famous feature seems to be a vast sewage pipe that soars like a scatological Roman aqueduct over its dead yellow lawns.
No, what confused me were the sums involved. Because what those 204 Dainfernians owe is a mind-boggling R13m, which is an average of R64,000 each.
Even that, however, doesn’t paint the full picture, because, according to reports, 40 of those customers owe between R100,000 and R1.4m. In other words, there is a very strong possibility that there are two or three other residents who also owe close to a million bucks.
Which makes me wonder: what in the name of Brian Molefe and bent rubber things are these people doing with all that electricity?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the energy demands of powering the modern Gauteng mansion, starting with the lasers you have to install to keep people away from the electric fence you had to erect to keep people away from the electric fence that came with the house.
There are the floodlights, lighting up your facebrick driveway, front rockery and stylish wire frames stuffed with stylish rocks, like a sun going supernova over a dead planet.
There is the quarter-scale model of the Trevi fountain, pumping out jets of water in time to a recording of Andrea Bocelli singing Time To Say Goodbye.
All of these things use electricity.
But a million rand? Even if these arrears date back a few years, surely we’re looking at consumption more in line with light industry than plaster horses singing operatic pop?
Has Dainfern secretly installed a vast smelter under its golf courses, supplying the nouveau riche’s apparently insatiable demand for bronze sculptures of cheetahs?
Is the Home Owner’s Association digging a network of watertight, deodorised underground tunnels into which residents can flee should the poo aqueduct ever crack?
Or have they simply built a huge machine that will pump out smoke – a smokescreen, if you will – so that the wealthy can disappear from sight the next time Eskom starts naming and shaming non-paying suburbs of Johannesburg?
Who knows? But for now I’d like to say well done and good luck to City Power. May your records be thorough, your wire-cutters sharp and your gaze steely and undimmed, no matter how prettily those horses sing.