On a dry plain in Limpopo in 2007, the leaders of Eskom broke ground for huge new power plant. It was named Medupi for “rain that soaks parched lands” in Sepedi. Jubilant officials proclaimed that the project would stimulate local growth and relieve the strained grid in a country where almost 9-million people had no access to power. Eskom’s CEO at the time, Jacob Maroga, said the station was the first of its kind since the 1980s. More than a decade later, the facility is still years from completion and estimated costs have doubled to more than $10bn. On the site, massive metalwork and pipe segments await placement. A cooling rack resembling an industrial Parthenon runs alongside six towering boilers that will take an estimated 120,000 tonnes of structural steel to complete. It’s a costly symbol of the disaster that is South Africa’s state-run electric utility. Eskom has R399bn in total debt, costing it $2bn in interest payments last year. Moody’s Investors Service considers Eskom a ...

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