Eskom Group CEO Andre de Ruyter shared images of a toppled H frame electricity transmission line outside of Lethabo Power station near Vereeniging in the Free State, calling it hard evidence of sabotage.
The utility had found supports attached to a small pylon carrying power lines that feed electricity to the Lethabo Power Station’s overland coal conveyer had been cut. This caused it to topple over onto a backup power line, causing both to become inoperable.
“The toppled tower fell uphill, highly unusual. You can clearly see the marks on the steel suggesting cutting,” said De Ruyter.
He pointed out that losing power supply to the conveyer belts feeding coal to Lethabo Power Station would have meant running out of coal at the station: “This would have caused us to lose our most reliable unit and it would have put us into much more than stage 4 loadshedding… through a deliberate act of sabotage.
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“I am now calling it for what it is. For some time we’ve had suspicious incidents, but this is the clearest incident to date that there are individuals out there who are seeking to damage the economy by causing significant loadshedding.
“We have reported it to the Hawks, the supply of electricity has been restored. We were fortunate that our colleagues from distribution were exceptionally nimble in finding a third redundant supply,” said de Ruyter.
He reiterated that the use of loadshedding is Eskom’s principle mechanism to avoid total systems failure and he didn’t want to share too much about their security measures so as not to give ammunition to anyone wondering how to trigger a total blackout.
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The damage was done outside of the Lethabo Power Station’s grounds, away from jacked-up security measures Eskom has introduced in and around locations they deem hotspots for potential illegal activity.
“The incident took place in an area where we have never seen activity and at the site, nothing was stolen which suggests there was no economic incentive. So, people weren’t trying to topple the tower to gain access to the metal they could sell as scrap. This was not the case so we are in a different category of crime here.
“It is immensely disappointing that there are people who see fit to intervene in our power system in this way. It is clear these individuals have another agenda. I leave it up to you as the media to investigate and speculate. Our job is to ensure there is as much electricity on the grid as possible,” said de Ruyter.
He added that loadshedding will be suspended at 9pm tonight. Total unplanned outages are predicted to be 14,776MW and the demand forecast will be 26,747MW. Thus, no loadshedding is predicted for the weekend and “at this point, the outlook for next week is no loadshedding, subject to major units being available.”
“We have 3,900kms of distribution lines in South Africa. It is not physically possible to station a guard at every pylon. That is the nature of what we are dealing with.”