Pictures of Eskom sabotage that nearly caused stage 6 load-shedding

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has shared what he sees as the “clearest indication yet” that deliberate sabotage of Eskom’s infrastructure was taking place and causing load-shedding.

In an online media briefing on Thursday, De Ruyter would only say that coincidental incidents suggested individuals were purposefully sabotaging Eskom’s infrastructure and that some of them might be its own employees.

“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.

However, he said Eskom must avoid irresponsible speculation and the creation of an atmosphere of paranoia.

During a media briefing today he was no longer mincing words.

De Ruyter said he was calling the incident at Eskom’s Lethabo power station for “what it is”.

“For some time, we have had suspicious incidents, but I think this is the clearest indication that we have had to date that there are individuals out there who seek to damage the economy by causing substantial load-shedding,” he said.

De Ruyter showed images of a power pylon that had collapsed along the distribution lines that fed power to the Lethabo Power Station’s coal conveyor belts.

Lethabo is one of Eskom’s most reliable coal-fired power stations, with six 618MW units providing a total installed capacity of 3,708MW. Therefore, it plays an essential role in helping to meet demand and prevent more severe load-shedding.

The tower collapsed at around 18:00 on Wednesday, causing its own line to trip. In the process, it fell onto a second distribution line that provided redundancy, which also caused its power supply to trip.

De Ruyter explained that an assessment of the stays holding the tower in place before it fell over showed signs that they had been cut deliberately.

“The stays that were cut are galvanised steel rods, 24mm in diameter, so these are very sturdy rods,” De Ruyter stated.

“The perpetrators of this cut all eight stays. There is no sign of corrosion, no sign of metal fatigue, there was no shearing of the stays.”

“There is clear evidence that there was some cutting instrument involved, whether that is a hacksaw or whether that is an angle grinder, that we will determine,” he added.

The images below show several of the cut stays.

De Ruyter said what also aroused suspicion around the incident was that nothing was stolen from the site.

In addition, the pylon had fallen uphill, which was highly unusual and suggested that it was pushed to fall over in a specific direction.

De Ruyter said the consequences of the sabotage could have been much more severe had Eskom’s distribution team not managed to act quickly and divert power from a third line of redundancy.

“If we had lost power supply to those conveyor belts feeding coal to Lethabo, we would have run out of coal at the power station after six hours. That is the capacity of the bunkers at the power station,” De Ruyter said.

“This would have then caused us to lose our most reliable power station at this point in time, with a loss of about 3,600MW, and would have put us into much worse than stage 4 load-shedding, probably stage 6 load-shedding, through a deliberate act of sabotage.”

Lethabo Power Station.

It should be emphasised that there was no evidence that Eskom employees were involved in this specific incident and that it had occurred outside the power station property.

“We have reported the matter to the Hawks, who are assisting us in the investigation,” De Ruyter said.

“At this stage, we have no indication who the potential perpetrators could be.”

Responding to calls for Eskom to secure its infrastructure, De Ruyter said it would be impossible for Eskom to patrol the 390,000km of distribution lines to prevent these incidents.

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Pictures of Eskom sabotage that nearly caused stage 6 load-shedding