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EDINBURGH — Rolling blackouts have been a feature of life in South Africa for more than a decade, with citizens taking turns to have the lights on in order to share what has become a scarce resource. Many people have generators to keep fridges going so that food does not spoil and torches, candles and matches are always at-the-ready. But, this is not what modern living should be like. In countries like Scotland, there are occasional electricity and gas failures, but these tend to be the result of bad weather or unusual faults and the power is restored as soon as possible. Eskom’s inability to keep a steady stream of electricity to every business and household is cited as a major obstacle to economic growth. In an article published on BizNews, retired engineer Eskom design veteran Alex Ham pinpoints Medupi, Kusile faults, with his comments sparking heated debate. – Jackie Cameron
By Thulasizwe Sithole
Eskom is South Africa’s power utility. It has been slowly decaying since the late 1990s.
Now, lengthy electricity cuts have become a common feature of life – to the detriment of business activity and economic growth.
In an article published on BizNews, a retired power station expert explains why two large power stations that have cost taxpayers at least R300bn more than the budget will never be fit for purpose.
Alex Ham worked for Eskom for 30 years, where he held the position of Chief Engineer: Power Station Design.
In the latter part of his career, he was appointed Executive Director: Technology. Ham retired in 1994 and has had no formal contact with Eskom since then.
Ham’s article has sparked heated debate on what the real reasons are behind Eskom’s failure to keep the lights on.
Rudolf Lombard got dozens of likes for this comment: “ Well doesn’t this show eskom that Mr Ham is the man for the job and not all these lunatics stealing all eskom’s money for nothing.
koos had a similar thought. “Ja no well fine – He was one of the first to exit eksdom in the new SA. They must have been very glad to appoint 5 cadres in his place and skim off the external contractors !!!!”
disqus_hiF7NvKYKq summed up the sentiment: “ZAR300 000 000000 Three Hundred thousand million rand extra because these clowns know nothing about power stations and power generation and how to design/operate them after AA was put into place at Eskom. Just think what the country could have done with the wasted money.”
Brent Gericke had a similar view.“Simplest solution, and what would have been an obvious move, had the ‘chip on their shoulders’ crowd who took over management of Eskom not been absolutely consumed with “Transformation” at the expense of engineering, would have been to get Mr Ham on board as an adviser from the outset.
Fanie Kuhn added: “Even a one-day meeting with Mr Ham would have saved 10s of billions of rands.”
baasted_123 didn’t pull any punches. “The only reason Medupi and Kusile was built was to enable grand scale looting of the state coffers.
“Biggest white elephants in the world. Monuments of corruption.”
The ongoing troubles at Eskom make many people hot under the collar, including Kickingstones – who would evidently like to see firm action to get Eskom back into shape.
Kickingstones said; “ SA does/did not have the labour skills to undertake this project initially. We have been hamstrung by the labour unions and contractors who have mulct this endeavour from day 1. ESKOM and its debt will be the ultimate undoing of SA.
R 425 Billion.
And by the way when ESKOM talks of “technical losses” they are alluding to illegal connections and defaulters !
“I thought that all engineers knew about SA’s poor quality coal and how SA became the world leader in designing power stations using low grade coal. I also understand stating in 1994 that engineers are elitist with no part to play in SA’s future and that sociologists and economists would take over industrial development. I also know as confirmed by the dti in 1996 and lastly in 2017 that there are no policies in government supporting engineers actually creating the jobs and industries SA requires.
But the real question in where is engineering leadership in all of this mess? Apparently it does not exist!”
Vanessa had an idea to fix the problems: “Surely this assessment is easy to verify. Eskom – Import the finer coals the units seem to be designed for, use for a while and see if the problems persist.
If they don’t – follow the instructions in this piece.”
DA MOVA – BANNED FROM EWN? reckons corruption is the root of the problems at Eskom. He advocates jail time for the culprits and a clean-up of the management team. “After the snouting of R300bn lock em up & then start the (proper) maintenance needed!!!!!
Fred Balt said egos got in the way of commonsense. “The decision to build these two power stations was taken very hastily for the ANC governments’ political prestige. The engineers designing these stations had to design while the construction was taking place right on their heals; hence all the mistakes that was made.”
David had some extra insights on the power plant problem. He told Fed Balt:
“ Well, the decision to actually start building might have been very hasty… but the urgent building of the two power stations was notified long before and should have started soon after 1998 with the final (long over due) white paper cabinet approval. Then planning, design and work was delayed due to ANC dragging its heels, due to politics and restructuring… and finally in 2007 construction began.”
beachcomber •probably said it best of consumer and business sentiment towards Eskom aka Eishkom or Eksdom:
“Here is the best instruction for ESKOM: “Light blue fuse and retire to a safe distance.”
Over on Alec Hogg’s Facebook page, the BizNews publisher’s friends were pondering out loud whether anyone at a senior level in government might be listening to Ham.
Dennis Scully Just a thought Alec, would the egos involved ever follow this logical and prudently vital path, or is that tantamount to admitting failure?
Alec Hogg ‘jeez I hope so!”
Kin Bentley has a similar concern. “Please someone ensure Ramaphosa knows about this. The ANC seem to exist in a world far removed from reality.”
Alec Hogg CR is incredibly well informed. And well organised and supported. Patience.