THE ESKOM FILES | Editorial: If Eskom fails, South Africa fails

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Graphic: Rudi Louw

In December 2001, Eskom was awarded the prestigious title of "Global Power Company of the Year" at the Financial Times Global Energy Awards in New York. The judges praised the parastatal’s technical excellence, maintenance, and operation while at the same time providing affordable electricity to its customers.

"Eskom, which generates more than half of the electricity on the African continent, has quite effectively demonstrated itself to be a leader worthy of the title – Global Power Company of the Year," the commendation read.

Twenty years later, and Eskom is a broken company. It is saddled with a debt of R411 billion. National Treasury regards it as the single biggest threat to the South African economy, constant breakdowns at its aging fleet of power stations lead to load shedding, and corruption and thievery riddles the whole of the organisation.

READ | Exclusive: Power utility’s R178 000 000 000 dodgy tender tsunami

If state-owned enterprises were at the heart of state capture, Eskom was the company at the heart of South Africa’s state-owned companies. Eskom has an annual procurement budget above R140 billion and has since 2008 initiated some of the largest and most capital-intensive projects in the country’s history.

The so-called "mega-build" projects of Kusile, Medupi, and Ingula Power Stations sought to modernise Eskom’s electricity generation division and was supposed to eliminate any uncertainty about sustained electricity supply for decades.

Instead, these projects became the scene of literally hundreds of crimes as bent Eskom executives colluded with private multinational firms to fleece billions of rands from the company and the taxpayer. While Gupta enablers, like Malusi Gigaba and Lynne Brown, were busy stacking the Eskom board with pliant directors, a spider web of corrupted Eskom officials at all levels of the company helped themselves to hundreds of contracts and thousands of payments.

ALSO READ | FBI, Hawks probe General Electric's R30m 'donation' to DD Mabuza Foundation

And this while a succession of allegedly corrupt chief executives and their lieutenants helped bankrupt the company, this spider web of corruption flourished. They demanded and received millions of rands in kickbacks. They authorised overpayments to contractors to the value of billions of rands. They wangled payment for the bulk supply of milk for 10 times the market price and signed off on the bulk purchase of toilet paper at R29 for a roll of single-ply.

But it was at the big projects, like Kusile, where the real money was stolen. Executives manufactured excess payments for the procurement and installation of boilers, turbines, and infrastructure like ash dams and water treatment plants and pocketed millions in silly money.

The Eskom Files, an investigation by News24’s award-winning team of investigative journalists, reveals the enormity of corruption at the company. It is pervasive at all levels; it has become entrenched in Eskom’s culture, and is so rampant that any attempt to defeat it is met by counterattacks and ferocious resistance.

But it also illuminates the dogged attempts by forensic investigators and law-enforcement agencies to expose and prosecute criminality.

It’s a fight that must be won. South Africa’s future depends on it. 

Make sure you don't miss out. Sign up for The Eskom Files newsletter to receive updates with the latest information.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Is social media doing more harm than good?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, our children are exposed and we can't protect them
49% - 6208 votes
Yes, but social media is part of the new reality
45% - 5686 votes
No, it's great for growing a child's world view
5% - 662 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.12
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.84
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.06
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.92
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.2%
Gold
1,825.02
+0.5%
Silver
27.08
+0.3%
Palladium
2,864.25
+0.1%
Platinum
1,208.00
-0.5%
Brent Crude
69.32
+1.1%
Top 40
60,211
-2.1%
All Share
66,169
-1.9%
Resource 10
69,474
-3.1%
Industrial 25
82,513
-1.5%
Financial 15
12,499
-1.1%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo