Ramaphosa: Theft, fraud just some of Tutuka power station's 'enormous' challenges

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South Africa needs some 4-6GW added to the grid.
South Africa needs some 4-6GW added to the grid.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted an oversight visit at Eskom on Saturday.
  • He spent most of the day in closed talks with top executives.
  • Speaking after the meeting, the president acknowledged the power station - which has been described as Eskom's worst - faces "enormous" challenges. 
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Theft, corruption and fraud are among the "enormous" challenges hampering performance at Tutuka power station, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said. 

Ramaphosa had a "very productive and informative" session with ministers and top executives of Eskom at the embattled power station on Saturday, which chief executive Andre de Ruyter has previously described as the state-owned power company's worst performing station.

Earlier this year, the Hawks confirmed they would be investigating allegations of fraud and corruption there.

READ 'No attempt to disguise' latest incident of sabotage at Eskom power station as another cable is cut

In May, Eskom confirmed acts of sabotage at Tutuka, including cable damage that delayed the return to service of its Unit 5 by several days. At the time, was the fifth act of sabotage in less than three months.

The president's visit came amid concerns over ongoing poor plant performance and red tape that slows down additional power supply.

He described Tutuka's challenges as "enormous", acknowledging that some of these were caused by red tape around procurement that stood in the way of units being able to continue operating. But corruption and fraud involving "a number of people" were also significant, he said. 

The president - who was conducting an oversight visit at Eskom's plant - remained in closed talks with Eskom executives and ministers at Tutuka until into the afternoon.  

Earlier on Saturday, Ramaphosa had arrived flanked by, among others, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe and Police Minister Bheki Cele. 

As South Africa grapples with its worst year of load shedding yet, the president has been under increasing pressure to declare an energy emergency, which would allow for the bypassing of red tape and allow additional power supply to be connected more quickly. Earlier in July, he pledged to fast-track solutions to the ongoing energy crisis, which he acknowledged was devastating. 

READ EXCLUSIVE | 'Scrap the damn red tape': Gordhan, Presidency exploring Eskom emergency plans after Stage 6

South Africa has endured over a month of load shedding amid an unprotected strike that ended in a 7% increase for workers. The strike sparked stage 6 load shedding for only the second time in the power utility's history - and stage 6 lasted for several days, which was unprecedented. 

Speaking ahead of Ramaphosa's briefing, Eskom chief De Ruyter said there was an urgent need for another 4 – 6 GW of capacity to be added to the grid. If red tape were slashed, he said, this could potentially occur in two to three years. 

If, however, onerous regulations remained in place, it would take much longer. 

"We shouldn't be having a debate about exemptions from load shedding," he told SABC news in an interview. "We shouldn't be having load shedding.

"We need to get more power on the grid."

He added that a change of tack had become urgent, saying when the country is facing stage 6 load shedding, "we cannot continue to do things as [...] before". 

The Eskom board has written to the Department of Public Enterprises to request the appointment of more directors. Eskom is also bringing in former employees to address its skills deficit, which has impacted the running of its power stations.

The power utility has a debt burden of some R400 billion. It has had 11 CEOs in ten years. 

On Friday, however, Ramaphosa said the governing ANC was considering a second state-owned power utility.

"[W]e are today experiencing a great risk in that we are placing the sole responsibility for electricity generation in one company," he said.

He added he was already preparing a memorandum to be sent to the executive for a discussion to take place.

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