There is widespread crime at Eskom, with allegations of criminal syndicates in Mpumalanga and the notorious KwaZulu-Natal construction mafia stealing billions from the power utility.
Last week, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said crime, corruption, and sabotage were a big part of the problem at Eskom.
He added that organised crime syndicates with links to the notorious KwaZulu-Natal construction mafia had infiltrated Eskom’s procurement department.
Ramokgopa said there are criminal activities in Eskom’s procurement division which extends into crime cartels.
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter also warned that crime and corruption at Eskom are deeply entrenched and highly organised.
He said the criminal networks had extended their tentacles to many Eskom workers who sabotage and vandalise power stations on their behalf.
“We know of at least four organised crime cartels operating in Mpumalanga operating in Eskom who steal at least R1 billion per month,” he said.
The four criminal cartels are sophisticated, well-organised, and even adopted language associated with the Mafia, like captains and soldiers.
“They have a hit squad of between sixty and seventy highly trained and well-armed people. People get assassinated in Mpumalanga.”
Eskom generation executive Rhulani Mathebula also said the power utility’s biggest problem is fraud and corruption.
The impact of fraud and corruption is felt throughout the company and undermines any effort by the great engineers and other staff at Eskom.
The problems include people stealing coal and diesel, damaging plants to get maintenance contracts, and delivering the wrong spares and equipment.
Because of corruption and fraud, there are significant delays in awarding contracts and “shady service providers” whom do very poor work are employed.
“Fraud and corruption are the biggest enemies of progress at Eskom. It is the most important issue to fix Eskom to get the maintenance program back on track,” Mathebula said.
On Sunday, the City Press newspaper reported that a high-ranking Eskom executive is linked to sabotage at power stations.
Many other Eskom managers and employees have also been linked to sabotage and criminal activity at the power utility.
Forensic investigator Calvin Rafadi revealed that Eskom managers and employees had been involved in sabotage at power stations for years.
Rafadi told ENCA that police minister Bheki Cele has also confirmed that they are investigating some executive managers at Eskom.
There is extensive evidence which shows sabotage involving Eskom staff, including WhatsApp messages the police have.
It revealed that contractors and procurement companies bribe Eskom employees to proactively break equipment to give them more business.
Rafadi added that many Eskom procurement partners and vendors are linked to crime syndicates because of how they operate.
Most of these vendors are not well funded, which means they don’t have money to procure the parts Eskom needs if they get an order.
To get their hands on money to buy the products, they approach anybody who can help them. This can include crime syndicates like the construction mafia.
They share the profits from the Eskom procurement contracts with the people who gave them money.
“Once they are seen communicating with crime syndicates or the construction mafia, it looks like they are linked with the underworld,” Rafadi explained.
This modus operandi has a negative effect on Eskom as it causes significant delays in getting parts when plants break down.
Ramokgopa said the slow procurement through middlemen of specific components reduces Eskom’s output by 2,800MW on average.
Ramokgopa said that in most cases, the units take longer to return than is initially estimated because of the slow procurement of replacement components.
He refers to this as “outage slips”, making it incredibly difficult to manage the supply-demand balance as the return of units to service is unpredictable.
On average, these outage slips reduce Eskom’s output by 2,800MW, equivalent to three stages of load-shedding.
To resolve this, Ramokgopa has called for procurement processes to be accelerated by removing middlemen in the transactions.