Eskom on offensive to thwart coal, diesel and copper thefts

Eskom has had to implement a raft of new security measures to thwart the increase in conductor theft and vandalism incidents across its infrastructure which have resulted in the loss of revenue and increased replacement costs. Photo: File

Eskom has had to implement a raft of new security measures to thwart the increase in conductor theft and vandalism incidents across its infrastructure which have resulted in the loss of revenue and increased replacement costs. Photo: File

Published Dec 23, 2022


Eskom has had to implement new security measures amid an increase in conductor theft and vandalism incidents across its infrastructure including coal, diesel and copper thefts, which resulted in a loss of revenue and increased replacement costs, it said yesterday.

Among these measures, Eskom is reviewing its contractor performances and investing in the monitoring of of its existing coal security controls.

Last Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the army to beef up security at all power stations.

In response to Business Report, Eskom’s media desk said it had had to suspend the suppliers and subject them to investigations for appropriate action to be taken. This included supplier reviews and disciplinary processes, and civil litigation for recovery of damages and losses.

The Economic Sabotage of Critical Infrastructure (ESCI) Forum in September found the increase in vandalism across all state-owned enterprises was costing South Africa billions every year. The economic damage of copper theft alone has been estimated at more than R45 billion annually.

Repairing, refurbishing or replacing infrastructure that breaks or is frequently vandalised come at a hefty cost, putting the power utility’s strained finances under increased pressure.

Eskom today will present its long-delayed annual results for the financial year ended March, 2022 where more of the financial fallout to its operations are set to be revealed.

“In the past week (until December 18), an increase in conductor theft and vandalism incidents were noted across Eskom. It has implemented strict compliance monitoring of its existing coal security controls such as the monitoring of weigh-bridges, the use of tamper-proof seals, private investigations, coal quality determination by third parties, coal quality verification at source and destination etc.

“Eskom is also actively investigating and implementing a range of new technologies to identify fraudulent activities and detect contaminated coal,” the utility said.

It also continued to partner with the mining industry in identifying some of these fraudulent activities.

Eskom said it was being more vigilant monitoring the coal-supply value chain and related deliveries 24/7, and would address anomalies using contractual remedies and the appropriate management controls.

“Eskom will announce identified anomalies when appropriate,” it said.

In the most notable acts of sabotage, an employee was found to have sabotaged machinery by draining lubricant from a functioning machine to sabotage the processes, presumably to ensure continued work for his company.

Two weeks ago, a truck driver and his supervisor from a transport company subcontracted to haul coal to Eskom was arrested at Matla power station. He was found to be in possession of sub-grade coal destined for the facility. The coal swapping allegedly took place at a known illegal coal yard in the Mpumalanga area, prior to the delivery being made.

The specialist team of investigators from Bidvest Protea Coin, who are contracted to Eskom to investigate coal, diesel and fuel oil theft cases, detected the truck as it entered and left the illegal coal yard heading towards the power station, where it was stopped.

Eskom said the truck driver admitted to offloading the “good-quality” coal he had received from the Arthur Taylor Colliery, located in Mpumalanga. He further alleged he was acting on the instructions of his supervisor when he proceeded to the Rondebult coal yard to exchange the coal.

The driver and his supervisor, employed by Ukusebenza Transport, were placed under arrest and a criminal case with various charges was opened with the SAPS, while the truck and trailer with the stolen coal was impounded.

Earlier this month, a contractor working at Camden power station was arrested after he was positively linked to an incident of sabotage while in two separate incidents, truck drivers delivering coal to Camden and Kendal power stations were also arrested.

“There are several matters pending before the courts and several convictions recorded during this year alone, for example earlier this year a copper cable syndicate was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment in Gauteng,” Eskom said.

In late November, two guards of a security company contracted by Eskom to protect Port Rex power station in East London were arrested while on duty for stealing 5 863 litres of diesel valued at about R145 930.

Through internal investigations, it was established that the arrested contract security guards had permitted a vehicle to collect the stolen diesel from the site during the night shifts, and for which they were paid in return.

Advocate Karen Pillay, general manager for security at Eskom, said: “It is appalling that the individuals entrusted with the responsibilities of safeguarding our infrastructure resort to such acts of malfeasance. These arrests are another significant step in our fight against crime at Eskom, and we will continue in our pursuit to ensure the perpetrators face the full might of the law.”