Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter recently spoke out about the root cause of load-shedding in South Africa, contradicting statements made by Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. During a hearing with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), De Ruyter disagreed with Ramokgopa’s claim that corruption at the power utility is not responsible for load-shedding. In fact, he said that “corruption does contribute to load-shedding,” citing the poor performance of Kusile and Tutuka, two Eskom power stations. He believes that corruption is so rife at Tutuka that it has affected far more than procurement and has cost the country millions. A key point of disagreement between the two parties is the issue of a corrupt tender awarded to Hitachi Power Africa, which is blamed for the poor performance of Kusile.
Here is a closer look at the details surrounding the discussion and some background information on the two power stations in question.
De Ruyter vs. Ramokgopa
The disagreement between De Ruyter and Ramokgopa arose after the latter made statements denying that corruption at Eskom is responsible for load-shedding. Instead, he attributed many of the utility’s problems to “technical problems.” De Ruyter, however, disagreed, saying that corruption is a significant contributor to load-shedding. While he stopped short of accusing Ramokgopa of lying, he did say that Ramokgopa was wrong in his assessment.
De Ruyter’s statements echo a recent National Union of Mineworkers statement. The union “categorically and emphatically” disagreed with the minister’s claims that corruption does not contribute to persistent load-shedding.
Kusile is one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants, with six units and a total installed capacity of 4,800MW. However, the plant has been plagued with problems that have repeatedly postponed its full commercial operation dates. Ramokgopa identified Kusile as Eskom’s worst-performing power station during his roadshow.
De Ruyter claims that a corrupt tender award to Hitachi Power Africa is to blame for Kusile’s poor performance. The tender, worth R38 billion, was supposed to provide Kusile and Medupi Power Station with boiler units. Unfortunately, three of Kusile’s four units were offline due to the boilers not being appropriately designed.
Ramokgopa has disputed De Ruyter’s claim, insisting that Kusile’s poor performance is due to technical and structural problems at the power station.
Tutuka was commissioned in 1985, and its last unit went online in July 1990. It has six units capable of producing 609MW each, giving it a total installed capacity of 3,654MW. However, it is one of Eskom’s worst-performing power stations, with an average output of only 1,170MW.
While Ramokgopa has largely blamed Tutuka’s poor output on technical problems, he has mentioned corruption at the station. In particular, he has singled out procurement as being rife with collusion and requiring attention.
De Ruyter, however, alleges that corruption is widespread at Tutuka and has affected far more than just procurement. He claims that it has caused the country millions and is a “significant contributor” to the power station’s low EAF.
The disagreement between De Ruyter and Ramokgopa highlights ongoing concerns about corruption at Eskom and its role in the country’s energy crisis. While Ramokgopa insists that most problems at the power utility are due to technical issues, De Ruyter has accused ANC politicians and top government officials of serious wrongdoing. At this stage, it is unclear what the ultimate outcome of this discussion will be. What is clear, however, is that Eskom’s problems are far from over, and there is still much work to be done to ensure that the country has a reliable and cost-effective energy supply.