Ramokgopa wrong to blame technical issues and not corruption, NUM says
Union disagrees with electricity minister and lays blame for the energy crisis on fraud at Eskom
The largest union at Eskom, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is at loggerheads with newly appointed electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa for his claim that the ailing state-owned power utility infrastructure breakdowns are due to technical issues and not corruption.
Ramokgopa, who is on a two-week tour of Eskom's power stations including its breakdown-prone coal-fired stations, told media last week at the Tutuka station that most of the issues faced at power stations were technical and not necessarily due to graft.
Ramokgopa changed his tune on Eskom corruption slightly during his visit to Medupi power station on Monday, conceding to workers that there are rotten apples in the entity “who thrive in conditions that makes it possible for them to steal.”
“Now that I am with you we are going to expunge these elements because the vast majority of us are honest and we want to resolve this problem,” he said.
He told workers that the procurement irregularities at Tutuka, one of the worst performing, are associated with production delays including the procurement of spare parts for units when they break down.
Tutuka had an energy availability factor of 15% to 17% during his visit but has, however, increased its EAF to 59%, Ramokgopa told workers at Medupi.
Ramokgopa’s comments on allegations of graft at Eskom during his assessment of the Tutuka power station comes despite exposés in the media that highlighted corruption. Eskom itself has told of the sabotage, tender fraud and supply chain irregularities uncovered at the facility.
Various probes, including the state-capture commission of inquiry, have also laid bare the extent of graft at the power utility which has a near monopoly on electricity generation and transmission in SA but has in recent times failed to provide reliable supply of energy.
Market watchers have flagged the crisis as one of the major factors denting SA’s economic prospects with industry bodies in various sectors of the economy — including tourism, mining, agriculture and manufacturing — warning previously that they are under terrible strain with more frequent and lengthy blackouts.
Ramokgopa, however, said on his visit to Tutuka that SA is unlikely to again experience a stage of load-shedding higher than stage six, which removes 6,000MW of power from the grid.
On Monday, NUM criticised Ramokgopa’s comments on graft at the power utility, laying the blame for SA’s energy crisis on corruption at Eskom.
Bizzah Motubatse, chair of the union’s highveld branch said: “The reasons behind the tripping of units is because of the substandard spares that are being bought with prices that are colluded and inflated. Some of the spares are paid and never arrive at the power stations or are immediately removed from sites through corrupt activities.”
“Load-shedding is implemented as a result of the power stations that are not performing due to trips and half loads. But as the NUM highveld region we are categorically and emphatically disagreeing with the minister’s version that corruption in Eskom does not play any role towards persistent load-shedding,” Motubatse said.
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