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Efforts in full swing to clean up Eskom

Efforts to root out, unravel and disrupt corruption at Eskom are gaining momentum.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa through his weekly newsletter.

Over the past few months, several operations by law enforcement agencies led to arrests and confiscations related to coal suppliers at the State-owned power utility.

“A multidisciplinary team, supported by the South African Revenue Service, carried out a meticulously planned search and seizure operation targeting coal smuggling syndicates operating across five provinces. Documents were seized from individuals alleged to have committed a range of offences including procurement fraud, tax crimes and coal diversion. This will support the drive to recover assets obtained from the proceeds of crime.

“A number of investigations by the Special Investigating Unit into Eskom-related corruption continue to yield results. To date, coal supply agreements valued at approximately R3.7 billion have been declared invalid through litigation, and coal supply agreements and construction contracts valued at R10 billion have been set aside,” he said.

The President vowed that more arrests related to the scourge of corruption will be made.

“Corruption, whether it is petty bribery, procurement fraud or large-scale misappropriation of funds, is a rot that negatively impacts all of society. When resources meant for the benefit of citizens and improving their lives are stolen, the price is paid by all, especially by the poor. It is not a victimless crime.

“Our efforts to tackle this corruption are gaining momentum. We are disrupting and unravelling the operations of the syndicates and criminal networks that have enriched themselves off Eskom for far too long.

“There will be more arrests. There will be more seizures. The impunity that has allowed many to believe themselves beyond the reach of the law is a thing of the past,” Ramaphosa said.

The President lauded the efforts of the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM), the Energy Safety and Security Committee which has resulted in the arrests of at least 234 people since the beginning of the year and the confiscation of assets worth more than R260 million.

“Coal smuggling and other forms of wilful damage to critical infrastructure are no less than economic sabotage, and our government is treating them as such.

“That is why one of the workstreams of the… [committee] is focused on illegal coal yards, the illegal trade in fuel and fuel oil and other forms of infrastructure crime that contribute directly to load shedding.

“Our focus on strengthening the institutions tasked with investigating and prosecuting these cases, and ensuring greater cooperation and information-sharing between them, is producing results,” President Ramaphosa said.

Tangible impact

President Ramaphosa explained how coal smuggling and coal diversion directly impacts Eskom and its ability to deliver electricity.

Coal diversion occurs when high grade coal is diverted to “bogus and illegal coal yards by criminal syndicates” with lower quality coal delivered to Eskom.

This lower quality coal, the President said, contributes “to the declining performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations and increased maintenance costs”.

“When I visited the Tutuka power station in Mpumalanga last year, the plant’s management explained to me the significant damage caused to its operations by this inferior coal. The coal is often mixed with stones and other materials.

“They explained that the conveyor belts at the power stations repeatedly break down because the stones damage the belts, with the result that spare parts have to be bought at substantial cost. The entry of poor-grade coal into the production processes further affects power station boilers, causing corrosion and other long-term damage.

“This single criminal act reduces the country’s energy generation capacity, and directly affects every South African household and business struggling under the crippling effect of load shedding. This in turn is having a detrimental effect on our economy, holding back growth, constraining job creation and deterring investment,” he said.

He urged all of society and government to come together and fight the scourge of corruption.

“To stop the rot at Eskom, mining houses, labour, business and civil society need to work together. The media also needs to continue the work it is doing to uncover criminal acts at Eskom.

“If we continue to work together, we will ensure that these coal syndicates have nowhere to hide, that they do not benefit from their crimes and, even if it takes some time, that they ultimately pay for them,” President Ramaphosa said.  –

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