Hawks confirm investigation into alleged sabotage at Eskom's Tutuka power plant

The Directorate of Priority Police Investigations have confirmed that a case of alleged sabotage at Eskom's Tutuka coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga was referred to them for investigation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at a media conference last week Wednesday, announced that sabotage had contributed to recent load shedding. The president had cut short an official visit to Egypt short to return the South Africa after Eskom took the unprecedented step of introducing stage 6 load shedding due to an acute shortage of capacity. 

"Someone in the Eskom system disconnected one of the instruments that finally led to one of the boilers tripping," said Ramaphosa.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed to Fin24 on Wednesday afternoon that the matter had been referred to the priority crimes body for investigation.

"The case has been referred to the Hawks to investigate allegations of tampering with, or damaging essential infrastructure and sabotage," he said. 

Mulaudzi said he could not provide additional information to Fin24 as the investigation was still in its early stages.

Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom's head of generation, said last Wednesday that the utility was alerted to the alleged sabotage when it picked up that an instrument monitoring the status of boilers – where coal is burned to produced steam – had been tampered with at Tutuka power station. 

While Eskom said the alleged incident of sabotage - which has been fixed - did not directly cause stage 6 load shedding last Monday,  it did contribute to capacity constraints. 

The struggling power utility's Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer, meanwhile, told radio host Kieno Kammies of CapeTalk last week Thursday, that while he could not reveal specific details about the alleged incident due to the police probe, it was "obviously" carried out by an "individual or individuals" with full knowledge of the power station's inner workings. 

Paris Mashego, the energy sector coordinator at the National Union of Mineworkers, told Fin24 last week that claims of sabotage sought to use employees as a convenient scapegoat for failures by leadership. 

- Additional reporting by Jan Cronje

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