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Eskom under fire for failing to keep the lights on in SA

Ongoing generation capacity shortages resulted in the disruption to all sectors. Picture: Itumeleng English

Ongoing generation capacity shortages resulted in the disruption to all sectors. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Nov 9, 2021


CAPE TOWN - “You think what is happening is serious? Wait until we get into February next year when the Koberg unit is off because of the replacement of the steam generator. Die poppe gaan dans!”

So warned former Eskom chief executive and group executive for technology Matshela Koko, as the country was yet again plunged into Stage 4 load shedding on Monday.

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Ongoing generation capacity shortages resulted in the disruption to all sectors of society, while Eskom said the blackouts were “necessary to ration the remaining emergency generation reserves, which have been utilised extensively”.

Stage 4 will remain until 5am on Friday and, thereafter, Stage 2 load shedding will continue until Saturday. But things will get worse, Koko told the Cape Times.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster. Let me tell you ... What is happening, you think it’s serious ... Then wait until we get into February next year, to April, when the Koberg unit is off because of the replacement of the steam generator.

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“Then ‘die poppe gaan dans’. Then it’s going to get worse. Something is horribly wrong,” Koko said.

Eskom had, on Sunday, blamed “a major incident in Zambia” as among the reasons for its implementation of load shedding.

It said: “On Saturday, November 6, there was a major incident in Zambia that affected the entire Southern African Power Pool. During this incident the imported power from Cahora Bassa reduced by 1 000MW, while a Tutuka generator also tripped. Furthermore, a unit at Tutuka power station was forced to shut down, while there were further delays in returning a unit each, at Lethabo and Majuba power stations.”

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However, a reliable source said Cahora is a direct line to Eskom Apollo substation, and it doesn't go through Zambia.

The Zambian embassy in Pretoria acknowledged a query from the Cape Times on Monday, but did not respond to questions by the time of publication.

Eskom did not respond to a request on Monday for further explanation, while Koko said the power utility indeed “had some explaining to do”.

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“The statement that Eskom issued, it’s a surprise to me and it does not make sense. I think Eskom has some explaining to do there. I don’t see the connection because the line is linked directly and does not go through Zambia,” Koko said.

The former Eskom boss said Independent Power Producers (IPPs) were accommodated in the parastatal’s integrated resource plans, but the plans needed to be made to work.

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount on Eskom chief executive Andre De Ruyter with the Black Business Council (BBC) yesterday calling for him and the entire board of directors to step down, due to their “inability to resolve the prolonged electricity blackouts”.

The council also called for an urgent meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan to discuss the matter.

BBC chief executive Khanki Matabane said: “The BBC was overly optimistic when De Ruyter was appointed, as Eskom needed stability, but has since realised that, two years later, the country has nothing to show but the highest number of blackouts in the history of our beloved South Africa.”

But Ramaphosa said the issues at Eskom were “complex”.

He said they were looking at precisely what is happening and how it is being handled.

“I know you would want me to fire the chief executive. We don't work like that. It is a major problem affecting the economy as well. It has other adverse effects. It is the biggest risk, as we have said in the past. We are looking at the best ways to handle it. It’s a combination of a whole range of challenges,” Ramaphosa said.

The crisis also came as matric pupils wrote Mathematics yesterday and will also write Economics, Business Studies, Physical Sciences, History, Geography, and Engineering Graphics and Design this week.

General secretary of National Association of School Governing Bodies Matakanye Matakanya said load shedding was going to severely impact pupils.

“It is very difficult for students as students rely on cell phones and radio as a way to revise their work and, without power, this becomes very difficult. Not all students study at the same time and this becomes a major problem for students who study at night,” said Matakanya.

Media and publicity officer for the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) Douglas Ngobeni said that this was not acceptable.

“Pupils are suffering because their entire study schedule is affected because of load shedding. We, as Cosas, call upon the minister of public enterprises and chief executive of Eskom to be fired for putting students through this, while they prepare for a life-impacting examination,” said Ngobeni.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) also added their concerns with Naptosa provincial chief executive in KZN Thirona Moodley saying: “Load shedding has a major impact on our pupils’ writing and preparing for exams.”

Additional reporting by Yogashen Pillay

Cape Times