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Eskom in the clutches of internal and external criminals

Ministers cite power stations as source of criminality, intimidation

Mpho Sibanyoni Journalist
Police minister Bheki Cele
Police minister Bheki Cele
Image: GCIS.

Power utility Eskom is experiencing such high crime levels that the lives of senior managers and their family members are being threatened and they have  to use bodyguards in public spaces.

In addition, some contractors were “exploiting and overcharging” the debt-ridden state-owned entity.

These were some of the revelations made by cabinet ministers during a media briefing on the country’s power crisis on Monday afternoon.

The political heads, who included minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and police minister Bheki Cele, among others, made the briefing a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced plans that will see the country relying heavily on independent power producers to resolve the current energy crisis.

“You find that some general managers of these [power] stations, they move around with personal protectors... their wives ... their kids are taken to school by personal protectors. That starts from inside these [power stations] where the criminals from both the internal and external [environment], they collude to steal the whole tank of diesel, the whole tank of oil coming to [Eskom],” said Cele.

He said the stolen oil would be earmarked for lubricating the power producing machinery.

He added that criminal activities were so bad at Eskom that the company employees would go look for spare parts of machines in the storeroom but find nothing.

“All those spares of machines appear on the paper but you will not find them at the storeroom but all the money is paid for,” said Cele.

He said the police had partnered with the general managers of the affected Eskom power station to tackle the criminal activities.

Cele said a middle manager and up to five other employees have so far been arrested.

“In the last financial year, there were 210 cases opened and 191 of those people were found guilty, some of them are doing between 10 and 15 years in prison.”

Gordhan said Eskom should get rid of overpricing and rank exploitation that is happening from contractors with an aim for the parastatal to save “a fair amount of money”.​

Meanwhile, government has come under fire for acceding to the private sector's demand to tamper with a renewable energy procurement requirement that could impact negatively on jobs.

Government announced on Monday afternoon it was going to drastically reduce the production of a specific type of solar panels from 100% to 35%. This meant that the remaining 65% of the solar PV panels would be purchased from other countries.

This did not sit well with prominent economist Duma Gqubule, who argued that the localisation requirement reduction was going to be a big blow to jobs.

Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel said the bid window 5 for the procurement for the independent power producers has a provision for certain components to be manufactured locally.

He said government concluded that the solar PV module, which consist of cells that transform the rays of the sun into electrical energy, should not retard the speed at which the independent power producers at Eskom can get energy onto the grid.

"To ensure that local content measures complement and support the rapid rollout of new energy we have developed a flexibilty framework for bid window five, this flexibility framework covers solar PV panels specifically because that is the area... The first is a current requirement for a 100% localisation of PV solar panels. This will be reduced drastically to 35%..."

Gqubule said: "The private sector will keep on biting the hand that feeds them. It is a vicious cycle. It is going to reach a point where the private sector will demand that localisation be reduced from 35% to 0%.

"This means in future there won't be local content in the production of PV solar panels and the renewable energy sector will not be creating a large number of jobs. We need a solution that will create many jobs and stabilise the power supply."

sibanyonim@sowetan.co.za

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