Durban – President Cyril Ramaphosa has again deployed soldiers to protect Eskom power stations across the country as the power utility’s efforts to beef-up security at its power stations and employ new technology to monitor its sites have purportedly proven to be futile.
A statement from the Presidency said 880 members from the SANDF will remain in service until October 17.
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said this deployment will cost the government more than R146 million.
Last year, Ramaphosa deployed 2 700 soldiers to protect Eskom power stations from crime and sabotage but those contracts ended on April 17. The cost was more than R200 million.
Speaking about the latest deployment, Magwenya said: “Members of the SANDF will assist the SAPS in protecting Eskom power stations around the country from sabotage, theft and other crimes that may threaten the functioning of power stations and the supply of electricity.”
Last year, the Presidency said the deployment involved a minimum of 10 soldiers per site with Eskom saying the four power stations that needed protection were Majuba, Camden, Grootvlei and Tutuka.
Eskom has consistently complained of acts of sabotage and of criminal syndicates operating at its plants.
Last year, Eskom said that a truck driver and his supervisor from a transport company subcontracted to haul coal to the utility were arrested at the Matla power station in Mpumalanga.
The arrests took place after the truck driver was found to be in possession of sub-grade coal destined for the facility.
In a letter to Ramaphosa, sent to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in December, he said troops would be deployed “for service in co-operation with the SAPS for the prevention and combating of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order in the country under Operation Prosper”.
“It has been brought to the attention of the relevant authorities that Eskom power stations in almost all provinces are currently being targeted and made dysfunctional through acts of vandalism, destruction and sabotage by criminals. Members of the SANDF employed will assist the SAPS in protecting Eskom power stations identified around the country,” Ramaphosa said.
Energy expert Tshepo Kgadima had said the deployment of soldiers was a sign that the government and Eskom had lost control of the power utility.
“The board and management of Eskom effectively have lost total control, but they are making matters worse by deploying the army as this has never been its mandate.
“There is no threat of a terrorist attack and we are not in a state of war. It’s inexplicable what justification there can be for the army to be deployed to Eskom power stations.
“South Africans should be worried as the government is lost in terms of how to solve the electricity challenges of the country,” said Kgadima.