Corrupt Eskom staff may be sabotaging power stations — De Ruyter

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter says that Eskom is investigating suspicious circumstances surrounding the breakdowns of several power stations.

Paraphrasing a principle known as Hanlon’s Razor, De Ruyter said he always tries to assume good faith.

“My fundamental point of departure has always been not to attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence,” the Eskom chief said in an online briefing with journalists.

However, Eskom recently had an incident where three units at Matimba power station went down simultaneously.

De Ruyter explained that a team had been working on the station’s dry cooling fans when they dropped an extension cord onto the unit 2 transformer.

This caused a flash, which tripped the station board and shut down all cooling to units 1, 2, and 3, leading to all three shutting down.

“We have difficulty in believing that this is entirely coincidental, so we have dispatched a forensic team to site,” said De Ruyter.

“We will also be deploying additional security to site in order to ensure we can protect our assets.”

Matimba power station

De Ruyter said they also had a close shave at Lethabo power station on Wednesday night when a distribution tower collapsed.

He explained that two distribution lines power Lethabo’s coal conveyors.

“These lines are each capable of carrying the full load. There is double redundancy,” explained De Ruyter.

At around 18h00, just before the evening peak, the tower for the one line collapsed onto the other line, wiping out the station’s double redundancy.

“Thanks to some very nimble footwork by our distribution management team, they were able to devise a third supply from the Free State,” De Ruyter said.

“This took a bit of engineering, and by 03:00 this morning [Thursday], they were able to restore supply and managed to keep coal supply to Lethabo going.”

Lethabo power station

Asked what the motive of such sabotage might be, De Ruyter said it is dangerous to speculate.

“We should avoid irresponsible speculation [and] should also avoid creating an atmosphere of paranoia,” he said.

De Ruyter stated that they had been met with resistance from the syndicates that have benefited from corruption inside Eskom.

“There is definitely significant push-back from some of the networks that have benefited extensively from criminal activity in and around Eskom,” said De Ruyter.

“We are tightening the screws,” he said, and pointed to the reports of arrests, people who have been subject to disciplinary action, and those who have had money forfeited to the state after “unexplained millions” were found in their bank accounts.

“There are quite a few people who are not fully aligned with the new direction that Eskom is taking to clean up its operation.”

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Corrupt Eskom staff may be sabotaging power stations — De Ruyter