Andre de Ruyter exposes Eskom sabotage campaign

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said the state power utility had experienced a “sustained campaign of sabotage” for years, resulting in significant damage, financial losses, and load-shedding.

De Ruyter exposed specific instances of intentional sabotage at Eskom in an affidavit as part of a legal battle with 19 applicants who aimed at declaring load-shedding unconstitutional.

In this statement, the former CEO said, “Eskom’s various power stations have experienced widespread sabotage, criminality, and destructive and unlawful industrial action”.

He acknowledges that, in some cases, damage to Eskom operations and property is not the result of sabotage.

However, in several cases, “it is clear that damage to Eskom property and operations has been deliberate”. 

The sheer number of inexplicable incidents of damage to Eskom’s property, in combination with the substantial cases where there was a clear intention to sabotage the utility’s operations, “overwhelmingly confirms” that Eskom has experienced a sustained campaign of sabotage.

De Ruyter described ten instances that he believes provide evidence of this sabotage.

1. Majuba fire

On 18 December 2019, Majuba Power Station’s overland coal conveyor caught fire. 

News24 reported that the fire started on the incline conveyer belt system from the rail offloading facility and “was extinguished swiftly by the power station’s fire team”.

While the fire did not result in any injuries, it impacted Eskom’s ability to deliver coal which was usually done via rail.

Eskom, therefore, had to transport coal to Majuba by truck, which costs the utility approximately R276,000 per day – or R100 million per year.

An investigation revealed that two valves controlling the water flow to a fire suppression system on the conveyor were shut off before the fire broke out. 

There was no record of any approval for the valves to be shut off. 

This fire occurred after De Ruyter was appointed Eskom CEO but before he started his official duties in January 2020.

Majuba Power Station SOURCE: Eskom website

2. Lethabo’s pylon

On 17 November 2021, the supports attached to a pylon (transmission tower) carrying power lines to Lethabo Power Station’s overland coal conveyor were cut.

This caused the pylon to collapse, and the conveyor stopped functioning. 

The eight supports, called stays, were sturdy, galvanised steel rods 24mm in diameter

A preliminary investigation of the incident found clear evidence that a cutting instrument was involved and found no evidence of corrosion.  

De Ruyter said it took nine hours for the coal supplies to be re-routed to Lethabo from a third supply line.

This incident could have resulted in an entire outage of Lethabo’s 3,558MW of generating capacity, which would have moved the country from stage 4 to stage 6 load-shedding.

Senior Eskom officials told News24 that this was “the clearest indication yet of a deliberate campaign to sabotage the country’s electricity supply”.

“What further arouses suspicion that this was a deliberate act of sabotage is that nothing was stolen. This was clearly now, an act of sabotage, and we can call it as such,” De Ruyter said at a media briefing.

Lethabo Power Station

3. Matimba’s transformer

Around the same time as this incident at Lethabo, a team working on Matimba Power Station’s dry cooling fans dropped an extension cord onto the unit 2 transformer.

This caused all three of Matimba’s cooling units to trip and shut down simultaneously.

This type of incident was unprecedented at Matimba, which was and still is one of Eskom’s best-performing power stations.

Matimba Power Station SOURCE: Eskom website

4. Threats

In May 2022, Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer, received a bomb threat.

The threat was never carried out, and a suspect was arrested for the crime a few months later.

An EFF branch chair from eMalahleni, Thapelo Mnisi, was arrested and released on R2,000 bail in November last year. His case was postponed to 17 January 2023 

The general manager of security at Eskom, advocate Karen Pillay, told News24 that Oberholzer’s case was one of many in recent months.

“The targeting of Eskom executives and employees who are focused and hard at work during these difficult times is very disturbing. Such acts of criminality are malicious, and Eskom takes them seriously.”

“The nature and level of threats, therefore, demand that they focus on their personal safety and that of their families instead, distracting them from the critical task their jobs demand of them.” 

She said safety and security risks of this kind “inadvertently impose increased demands on the organisation to secure its resources”. 

Jan Oberholzer, Eskom COO

5. Coincidental breakdowns

One unit at Kendal Power Station and two at Matla Power Station broke down on the same day, taking 2,400MW of generation capacity off the grid. This is equivalent to two stages of load-shedding.

Both power stations are located in Mpumalanga and are around 50km apart.

De Ruyter did not specify the date on which this occurred. 

Kendal Power Station SOURCE: Eskom website
Matla Power Station SOURCE: Eskom website

6. ‘Unlawful industrial action’

In June 2022, unlawful industrial action at various of Eskom’s power plants interrupted the utility’s operations, which caused 10 generation units to trip. 

This moved the country from stage 4 to stage 6 load-shedding.

Eskom said in a statement that this was due to “the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants”. 

This action refers to a wage strike started by Eskom workers following failed wage negotiations.

The strike was considered unlawful and unprotected industrial action because “the supply of electricity is an essential service, and workers are legally prohibited from withholding labour to achieve their purposes for a wage negotiation”, De Ruyter said.

Eskom and De Ruyter said the strikes prevented the utility from performing planned maintenance at the plants where they were taking place and were, therefore, worsening the country’s power crisis.

7. Camden’s bearings

On 10 November 2022, a contractor at Camden Power Station removed the bearing oil drain plug from one of the station’s bearings. This caused the oil burners to trip repeatedly, resulting in an outage of Camden Unit 4. 

The contractor later confessed that this was an intentional act of sabotage and was arrested.

“It is disheartening to find that some of our contractors are unscrupulous, have malicious intent and are willing to plunge the country into further load-shedding at a time when the electricity grid is highly constrained,” said Pillay.

“We have always suspected that some of our maintenance contractors and employees are behind these acts of sabotage,” she said.

Camden Power Station SOURCE: Eskom website

8. Arrested

De Ruyter said in his affidavit that Eskom had recorded more than 25 arrests for matters of sabotage relating to plant tampering and theft of diesel and fuel oil.

These arrests reportedly came after the government deployed soldiers to guard the national grid.

9. Soldiers

On 16 December 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed 2,700 South African National Defence soldiers to four of Eskom’s power stations.

De Ruyter said this was because Eskom was under “near-constant siege”, plagued with problems such as vandalism and theft.

This deployment cost the country just over R200 million.

Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of the national lockdown in March 2020. SOURCE: GovernmentZA

10. Cyanide

“On 12 December 2022, I was poisoned with cyanide,” De Ruyter said in the affidavit.

Shortly after De Ruyter handed in his resignation as Eskom CEO, he alleged that he was poisoned with cyanide-laced coffee at this office in Megawatt Park.

He has since laid a charge of attempted murder at the police, but no suspects have been identified.

Andre de Ruyter
Andre de Ruyter

Andre de Ruyter’s affidavit


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