Eskom's Kusile coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, December 18 2018. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG
Eskom's Kusile coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, December 18 2018. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s recent revelation concerning design issues at two of its biggest coal-fired power stations, Medupi and Kusile, forcing a shutdown of power generation units, provides incontrovertible confirmation of the curse of past incompetence.

The chickens always come home to roost and they’re now ensconced in the boilers of Kusile and Medupi at Eskom while further strain is placed on the national grid. The reason is that the boilers were built at a length too short to deal with high temperatures, preventing the units from operating at full capacity. Reliability has been compromised over the years with scant regard to competence, maintenance, systems and fuel.

Design is one aspect that underpins this negatively, affecting cost and time frames. Other failures — procurement, construction, commission and testing, and operations and maintenance — are evident. An Eskom board minute requiring all projects to be commissioned on a turnkey basis was overridden and ignored, and construction at Medupi and Kusile were embarked upon for all the wrong reasons, including the accommodation of graft in a scenario that had no plan.

It is high time South Africans were shown a plan, the associated costs, supply implications that affect the fiscus, the economy and the lives of ordinary people. The generation and supply of electricity is of prime strategic importance and SA can no longer be kept in the dark. The DA has tabled proposals and is willing to discuss, on a party-agnostic basis in the strategic interests of our country, a workable way forward.

We await the government’s response. It’s time for vested interests and incompetence to be exposed and defects corrected at the expense of substandard contractors, lest the returning chickens clog up the works irretrievably.

Ghaleb Cachalia, MP, DA shadow public enterprises minister

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