An Eskom employee and contractor were arrested yesterday for being in possession of a large quantity of copper cable in Welkom, Free State, the state-owned power utility announced in a media statement.
“Thanks to the vigilance of a patrolling Police Captain from the Welkom K9 Unit, the two suspects were arrested and copper cable of 170 metres with an estimated value of R540,000 was confiscated,” said Eskom.
“It is suspected that the copper cable was stolen from Eskom’s warehouse in Welkom.”
The two suspects will appear in the Welkom Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, 25 November 2021.
Eskom thanked the police for their watchfulness and condemned criminal behaviour by its employees and contractors.
It encouraged members of the public to report any suspected criminal activity to Eskom’s toll-free Crime Line on 0800 11 27 22.
The arrests come after Eskom CEO André de Ruyter revealed last week that criminal elements were attempting to sabotage the power utility.
He highlighted a particular incident at Lethabo power station where several 24mm galvanised steel rods supporting a power pylon were cut in such a way that it collapsed onto a secondary powerline tower (pictured below).
The apparent sabotage caused both distribution lines powering Lethabo’s coal conveyor to trip.
This happened at around 18h00, just before the evening peak, and wiped out the power station’s double redundancy. De Ruyter explained that these are redundant power feeds — if just one had tripped there wouldn’t have been a problem.
Lethabo is Eskom’s most reliable power station.
With both power lines down, Lethabo’s generating units were cut off from their coal supply and would have shut down in six hours.
“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 [on Thursday], they were able to restore supply and managed to keep coal supply to Lethabo going.”
In a separate incident at Matimba power station last week, three of its units went down simultaneously after technicians dropped an extension cord onto the unit 2 transformer.
De Ruyter explained that a team had been working on the station’s dry cooling fans when they dropped the cord.
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.”
Earlier in November, two Eskom employees and a supplier were arrested and charged with fraud, theft, and corruption related to the disappearance of spares at Tutuka power station valued at hundreds of millions of rand.
Eskom alleged that it paid hundreds of millions of rand for goods that were never delivered and services that were never rendered.
The arrests followed months of internal investigative work by Eskom, in cooperation with the law enforcement agencies in Mpumalanga.
Eskom’s investigations have also established the existence of a syndicate responsible for the theft of approximately R100 million worth of fuel oil per month from the power station.