South Africa to spend R147 million to protect Eskom’s power plants

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South Africa plans to spend R146.7 million over six months to protect state-owned electricity utility Eskom’s power stations, reported Bloomberg.

President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised 880 members of the South African Defence Force to help the police protect Eskom’s assets until mid-October.

Corruption allegations at Eskom hit a boiling point earlier this year when de Ruyter, in an interview with ENCA, made bold allegations of senior politicians being directly involved with and entrenched in corruption at Eskom.

Former chief executive officer of Eskom Andre De Ruyter accused the ANC, in particular, of using the power utility as a ‘feeding trough’. He estimated in February that about R12 billion (R1 billion per month) is stolen from the utility every year.

Long before the interview, however – in 2021 – de Ruyter approached BLSA for assistance in funding an investigation and assessment into the risks facing the embattled power utility.

BLSA reportedly paid R18 million for an investigation conducted by George Fivaz Forensic & Risk.

Busi Mavuso, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), says that funding an investigation into the allegations made by de Ruyter was in the best interests of business and citizens in South Africa – but she claims there are now ‘powerful actors’ who wish to stand in the way.

However, the graft at the power utility is not limited to the top brass, as there are reports of theft and vandalism at every level within Eskom.

According to Bloomberg, in November 2022, a contractor at a power station in the eastern Mpumalanga province pulled a plug connected to one of the site’s main generation units. The unit subsequently broke down, ensuring yet another day of nationwide outages.

The worker later confessed that he had intentionally sabotaged the machinery — resulting in R18.39 million in damages and almost R110.3 million in lost revenue — so his employer would be hired to make the repairs, according to a statement and report presented to lawmakers by Eskom, said Bloomberg.

This wasn’t an isolated event – instead, it was one of more than 760 criminal incidents targeting Eskom operations over 90 days ending in December.

At every step of its supply chain, the utility, which is responsible for producing 90% of South Africa’s energy, has had to defend itself against armed robbery, fuel theft, sabotage and corruption – all of which are increasing the risk of a complete power outage that could devastate a country teetering on the brink of recession.

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