On Friday, Group CEO Andre de Ruyter held a media briefing on the state of the energy system and in a week filled with controversy, confirmed the existence of verified proof of sabotage at Eskom power stations.
Eskom sabotage: De Ruyter tells all about Lethabo ‘tampering’
Stage 2 loadshedding returned on Wednesday morning, necessitated by the loss of a unit each at Medupi, Duvha and Kendal power stations, according to Eskom.
Energy expert Ted Blom was sceptical, at the time, and warned that the power utility may be in line to lose more capacity and escalate blackouts to stage 4. However, the national power supplier overcame its shortcomings and managed to lessen loadshedding by Thursday, thanks to the return to service of eight generation units.
“This together with loadshedding has allowed us to recover the dam levels at the pump storage stations,” Eskom revealed, warning that stage 1 rotational power cuts were still needed to replenish open-cycle gas turbines.
Elsewhere, De Ruyter explained, acts of sabotage were attempted on a number of lines that feed electricity to the Lethabo power station.
For the first time, Eskom candidly confirmed its belief that anti-establishment moles in their workforce, or external figures, tried to destabilise Lethabo’s 3 558-megawatt feed to the power system.
According to De Ruyter, industrial-grade equipment may have been used to topple a small pylon that held power lines that feed energy to Lethabo’s coal conveyor.
Coincidentally, the incident occurred shortly before the start of high-peak demand for electricity in South Africa, which is usually at around 18:00.
In a race against time to feed energy to the coal conveyor, Eskom technicians rerouted power to Lethabo via a third supply line, averting what would have been stage 4 loadshedding.
In the power utility’s assessment, this was an act of sabotage committed with the intention of destabilising the utility.
“What further arouses suspicion that this was a deliberate act of sabotage, is that nothing was stolen. This was clearly now, an act of sabotage, and we can call it as such,” De Ruyter said.
At this time, and outside of plans to equip key power stations with CCTV cameras, the utility has made no indication that matters are being escalated with law enforcement.
South Africa is currently loadshedding at stage 1 until Saturday 20 November 2021.