Ghost of load shedding returns as Eskom grapples with Gupta-tainted Tegeta

JOHANNESBURG — This story should shock South Africans on at least two levels. The first is that the power utility is still so dependent on dirty coal that it if these supplies run into problems, the company starts to struggle to keep up with electricity demand. (This is a replay of what happened in 2007/8.) The second is that it’s a Gupta-tainted company, Tegeta, which is now holding the country to ransom by bungling its coal supplies. If ever there was a sign that Eskom should be broken up into bits and privatised, this is it. – Gareth van Zyl

By Ana Monteiro and Thembisile Dzonzi

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s state-owned power utility is working with the National Treasury to source more coal for seven of its plants that don’t have adequate supply.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is diverting coal to the under-resourced stations from facilities that have sufficient supply, spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said on Johannesburg-based broadcaster SAfm. The supply problems stem from mines run by Tegeta Exploration and Resources Ltd., he said.

Cooling towers operate at the Hendrina power station, operated by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., in Middelburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“There are some difficulties — that’s the situation they’re managing now,” Phasiwe said of Tegeta. “From our side, we’re looking for a replacement supplier as soon as possible to make sure we don’t go back to the days of loadshedding, especially as we’re going into winter,” he said, using a local term for rolling blackouts, which the country was forced to implement in 2015 after seven years of power shortages hindered economic growth.

Tegeta is a company controlled by the politically connected Gupta family through Oakbay Investments Ltd. and a son of former President Jacob Zuma. In December 2015, it bought Optimum, which includes a mine of the same name, the Koornfontein operation and a stake in Africa’s biggest coal-export terminal, from Glencore Plc.

Oakbay said in August that it agreed to sell Tegeta for R2.97 billion ($247 million) to Swiss company Charles King SA. The disposal was expected to be concluded in 12 months, Oakbay said at the time.

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