Eskom sabotage: Some playing Russian roulette with SA economy, says De Ruyter

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Eskom is in need of some radical surgery to change the way it is structured, says CEO André de Ruyter.
Eskom is in need of some radical surgery to change the way it is structured, says CEO André de Ruyter.
Deaan Vivier/Netwerk24
  • Eskom has found evidence of sabotage at the Lethabo Power Station near Vereeniging on Wednesday evening.
  • For CEO André de Ruyter, the questions to ask should now be who stands to benefit and what the intent was.
  • He feels some people are playing Russian roulette with SA's economy in this way.

Having found evidence of sabotage at the Lethabo Power Station near Vereeniging on Wednesday evening, the questions to ask must be who would benefit and what their intent is with such an act, says Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.

"As a South African I find it very disappointing to see people play Russian roulette with our economy for purposes one can only speculate about," he said during an event hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, in partnership with the Wits School of Governance on Friday evening.

At the same time, he pointed out that Eskom does not have the powers to make arrests. It is dependent on law enforcement agencies to assist and "gather evidence of where these plots are being hatched".

"Maybe another question we can ask is why nothing was detected in advance?" he added.

In his view, Eskom is in need of some "radical surgery" to change the way it is structured. It has "a tired old fleet" that needs replacing, and De Ruyter sees this as an opportunity to pivot into a new, cleaner and greener electricity setup in SA.

"But we cannot continue to execute on this mandate as a monolithic monopoly. So, we have to follow the international trend and separate Eskom into various components. Especially an independent transmission company will give investors the confidence to invest. This is key to address the shortfall and the environmental challenges," said De Ruyter.

He explained that Eskom's current situation stems from a legacy of many years of a lack of proper maintenance and of understanding the complexity of electricity supply and of operating a power station.

"To my critics I want to say that one then does not blame the current driver of the [Eskom] car," he added. "I believe, if we have policy alignment, we can use the transition from an overwhelmingly fossil fuel economy to a more balanced approach where coal will still play a role," said De Ruyter.

Professor William Gumede of the Wits School of Governance agreed with De Ruyter that a radical intervention is needed at Eskom. Gumede proposes that Eskom be declared a disaster so that the relevant legislation can be used for this purpose.

"It takes so long after an entity has been captured to turn it around - especially if it is a state-owned enterprise - due to vested interests at play. Political ideologies also play a part," said Gumede.

The third member of the panel discussion, News24 assistant editor: in-depth news, Pieter du Toit, said he would like to see a greater urgency on the part of prosecuting agencies to bring perpetrators to book.

* Fin24 is part of News24.

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