Eskom says 'pure negligence' contributed to recent power cuts

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Photo: Jaco Marais
Photo: Jaco Marais
Jaco Marais
  • Eskom's chief operating officer says negligence by employees has contributed to recent power outages. 
  • Jan Oberholzer says he has, however, seen no evidence of sabotage against the country's power infrastructure. 
  • The power utility is confident that it will be able to keep the lights on when SA goes to the polls on Monday. 

Eskom's Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer has said that "pure negligence" contributed to the recent spate of power cuts, but he has seen no evidence of sabotage. 

Eskom's leadership gave an update on Friday evening on the power outlook for the weekend and Monday when voting in local elections will take place. 

Oberholzer said that it was likely that Eskom had recently "lost units because of pure negligence". 

He said that some employees, "for whatever reason", had done things like choosing not to respond to alarms. 

But he said there was no evidence that units had been sabotaged.

The underlying reasons for the outages, he said, were that SA's aged power stations were being run hard.

There was also lack of time and money to conduct the comprehensive maintenance the stations need. He added that SA didn't have enough additional capacity to allow power stations to be switched off for long periods to be repaired.

Earlier in the week, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had also said that employee error contributed to recent outages. Gordhan gave the example of a power station operator who ignored a warning night, leading to a unit tripping. He said the employee was fired. 

Election light 

Oberholzer said he was confident that Eskom would keep the lights on next week when South African goes to the polls.

Several generating units that had experienced breakdowns had been brought back online. Eskom had also managed to largely replenish its diesel and water reserves that power peaking stations.  

Load shedding would end at 20:00 on Friday, he said, earlier than expected. Power cuts are not planned for the weekend. 

But Oberholzer warned that the national grid was still constrained. "We do still have some risk," he said.

Meanwhile, Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter said that he and other members of the power utility's leadership would be visiting seven power stations this weekend. 

De Ruyter said he would hold face to face meetings with management at the stations about the reasons for unplanned breakdowns.

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