Eskom’s miraculous decline in sabotage post-De Ruyter and Oberholzer

Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, has experienced a remarkable decline in sabotage at its power stations, a departure from the multiple incidents reported in 2021 and 2022. Notably, there have been no specific reports of sabotage in 2023. Despite only one arrest related to sabotage at Camden Power Station in November 2022, Eskom attributes the decline to proactive security measures, including the deployment of the South African National Defence Force since mid-December 2022. This positive shift is crucial as the country grapples with its most severe year of load-shedding.

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Eskom sabotage miracle

By Hanno Labuschagne

Eskom has seen a radical decline in sabotage at its power stations over the last year.

That is despite only one insider being arrested for his suspected involvement in such an incident over the past two years.

Eskom’s communications team and former leadership — including CEO André de Ruyter and COO Jan Oberholzer — reported multiple incidents of suspected sabotage by its employees and contractors in 2021 and 2022.

Aside from compromising coal railway lines and conveyor belts feeding power stations, specific incidents suspected to have involved sabotage within power stations were also shared with the public on several occasions.

The issue was also raised in former Eskom CEO AndrĂ© de Ruyter’s book Truth to Power.

“At times, it felt like we were engaged in a low-grade civil war against criminals threatening to overrun the state,” De Ruyter said.

André de Ruyter on My Guest Tonight with Annika Larsen. Source: @Annikalarsen1/Twitter

However, in a significant turn from previous years, there have been no reports of specific incidents of sabotage at Eskom’s power stations in 2023.

Eskom told MyBroadband it has observed a radical decline in incidents of sabotage since December 2022.

The utility told MyBroadband that the last incident of confirmed sabotage at its power stations occurred at Camden in November 2022.

In that incident, a contractor was found to have intentionally removed a bearing oil drain plug, causing one of Camden Unit 4’s oil burners to trip repeatedly.

“This malicious act caused all the oil to drain out from the bearing, thus damaging the bearing which, in turn, prevented the mills from operating optimally,” Eskom explained at the time.

“Camden Unit 4 subsequently tripped after losing all the mills.”

Camden Power Station, where the last confirmed incident of sabotage of Eskom power stations occurred

MyBroadband also asked Eskom how many arrests had been made for sabotage at its power stations in 2022 and 2023 and how many prosecutions were concluded.

The utility said there had only been a single arrest relating to sabotage during these two years — for the incident at Camden.

“The matter is in the Ermelo court and has not yet been concluded,” Eskom said.

Eskom’s arrest number seemed low when considering the number of suspected sabotage incidents involving contractors or employees.

The National Electricity Crisis Committee (Necom) previously said over 100 arrests had been made in more than 1,300 cases of reported sabotage by June 2023.

However, these figures include arrests of people who don’t do work for Eskom and cases where infrastructure outside its power stations was impacted.

Proactive security — including the army — helps to prevent incidents

According to Eskom, the progress seems to have stemmed from proactive security measures rather than fear of reactive punishment from Eskom among the guilty parties.

Eskom told MyBroadband that the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at some of its most sabotage-ridden power stations from mid-December 2022 had the necessary impact.

“There has been heightened security at our power stations, further strengthened by the deployment of SAPS/SANDF at these sites,” Eksom said.

The enhanced security has enabled Eskom to “respond immediately” to any risks facing the power stations, create visible policing, and deter those wanting to commit crimes at the facilities.

The reported decline in sabotage in 2023 is fortuitous as the country is already dealing with its worst year of load-shedding yet.

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This article was published by MyBroadband and is republished with permission

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