Eskom has hired 450 additional security guards and is using drones equipped with infrared cameras to help protect its infrastructure from saboteurs.
This comes after Eskom CEO André de Ruyter revealed last year that criminal syndicates were attacking the state-owned power utility after it started cracking down on corruption.
“Eskom management responded decisively to this challenge,” De Ruyter said during the utility’s State of the System briefing on Thursday.
In addition to drones and additional security guards, De Ruyter said Eskom had deployed intelligent cameras to detect untoward behaviour at its facilities.
These cameras alert control rooms when they sense suspicious activity, which then dispatch security personnel to investigate.
Eskom was the target of attacks on its infrastructure and experienced suspicious damage to power plants last year. These included:
- Vandalism of power lines near Lethabo power station caused its coal conveyor to shut off. De Ruyter said the sabotage could have caused South Africa to move to stage 6 load-shedding.
- An explosion at Medupi Unit 4 that also knocked out a neighbouring generating unit. Eskom estimates the damage will cost R2.5 billion and 2.5 years to fix.
- An outage at the Matimba power station after a team working on dry cooling fans dropped an extension cord onto the unit 2 transformer.
- An explosion at Camden power station unit 8
There were also reports that Eskom employees collude with contractors and suppliers to increase their overtime and bonuses, and make money on the side through inside information.
There were some successes during the year too.
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.
Asked for an update on the investigation towards the end of last year, De Ruyter said that investigations at Tutuka into wide-ranging corruption, fraud, and theft are ongoing.
He said that Eskom is working closely with the police and expected further arrests.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, so we don’t want to comment too much,” De Ruyter said.
“Further [warrants of arrest] are being prepared. In due course, more announcements will be made.”