Design defects at Kusile, Medupi will take 5 years to fix, says Mabuza

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Deputy President David Mabuza.
Deputy President David Mabuza.
Photo: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
  • Deputy President David Mabuza said the design defects at Kusile and Medupi power stations are expected to take until 2027 to fully rectify.
  • Mabuza said efforts to resolve design defects were slowed by events, including the national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
  • He said Eskom was renegotiating contracts that saw the power utility bear the cost of design defects instead of contractors.

Deputy President David Mabuza said while Eskom has made progress in identifying design defects in its Medupi and Kusile coal power stations, the delicate process of rectifying these defects will only be concluded by the end of 2027.

Mabuza was replying orally to questions from members of Parliament during a virtual plenary of the National Council of Provinces on Thursday afternoon. The plenary comes amid continued load shedding and chilling tensions between Eskom management and the state.

These tensions came to a head last month when Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso refused to allow Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) to blame Eskom management for its troubles and exited a meeting with the committee.

The Medupi and Kusile power stations fell victim to construction delays and cost escalation. Parliament was told in 2019 that the maintenance costs to address defects at Medupi were estimated at R7 billion for Medupi and R285 million for Kusile.

Responding to a question from ANC MP Tebogo Modise on the design defects at the stations, Mabuza admitted that Kusile and Medupi had not achieved the desired levels of performance and reliability due to plant design and maintenance inefficiencies.

"To establish the progress in identifying these challenges, the political task team on Eskom undertook a visit to Kusile. We stressed to Eskom that the defects must be corrected expeditiously to avoid further delays and cost escalations," said Mabuza.

Mabuza said after the political task team on Eskom visited the power stations recently, Eskom management said modifications have been carried out in Kusile station, with design defect correction making progress.

He said the boiler plant defect solution should be concluded by October of 2023. The correction to the milling plant at Kusile will be completed after December 2027, "depending on the outage availability of units", Mabuza said.

"We remain concerned that Eskom may have somewhat inadequately addressed Scopa's recommendation after the 2019 oversight visit, more specifically the shift on dates on the Medupi and Kusile projects. The inability to address this was impacted by the Covid-19 risk-adjustment strategy," Mabuza said.

READ | Eskom's grim warning: SA must more than double its generation capacity in just 13 years

EFF MP Mmabato Mokause asked Mabuza what his thoughts were on the suggestion by Mavuso that Eskom management was not entirely to blame for the crisis of Eskom. Mabuza said allotting blame while the entity struggled on was unproductive.

"All we are trying to do is help Eskom meet its obligation. We ask that the board does its work. Let us all work together. It is pointless to point fingers and ignore the problem. We would be failing the nation and our people if we continue to point fingers," he said.

Freedom Front Plus MP Michiel de Bruyn asked why contractors and Eskom were sharing costs to address design defects and why are the companies responsible for these defects not being held accountable.

"We have asked that question ourselves to Eskom and the answer we got was that all of the different contracts have different arrangements and specifications. There are contracts where there is a stipulation that contractors were not liable for any defect that may happen," Mabuza replied.

Mabuza said Eskom has been trying to renegotiate the contract and that, in many cases, the sharing of defect costs was an outcome of this process.

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