Explosive allegations that load-shedding was engineered within Eskom

Independent energy expert Mohamed Madhi argues that former president Thabo Mbeki’s claim that load-shedding was engineered within Eskom is plausible.

Madhi referred to Mbeki’s explosive allegations that Eskom engineered the load-shedding which occurred in 2007 and 2008.

Last year, the former president claimed that Eskom’s management deliberately caused an electricity crisis and load-shedding.

He dismissed the argument that the government ignored requests for investment in new generation capacity and infrastructure.

“The narrative was that the government did not listen, which caused the blackouts in January 2008. That story was false. That story was cooked up,” he said.

Mbeki claimed that the true reason for load-shedding in January 2008 was that the people in charge of the power stations did not replenish coal.

“The power stations ran out of coal. It was not because there was no coal in the country. The people inside Eskom decided ‘let’s shut it down’,” Mbeki said.

“The lie was told that the government was to blame for load-shedding because of a lack of investment. It was not true.”

He further alleged that black economic empowerment requirements were used to deliberately delay completing the Kusile power station.

“Seven years after the construction of the Kusile power station started, there was not a single megawatt of electricity generated,” he said.

Eskom then contracted an Indian company to help build Kusile. They completed the first unit in a much shorter time than expected.

Because of their exceptional performance, the Indian company expected its contract to construct the other units to be extended. This was not the case.

“A strange thing happened. Eskom said it would only extend the contract if the Indian company gets a BEE partner,” he said.

The company did not understand the BEE requirements, and a dispute around this issue resulted in the termination of the contract. “To this day, Kusile is still not finished,” Mbeki said.

“This is why I am saying it is deliberate. It is people who wanted to produce this electricity crisis,” Mbeki alleged.

He repeated these claims on 30 April 2024, saying there was a false narrative that his government ignored warnings that the country needed additional generation capacity.

He added that load-shedding was ‘completely unnecessary’ and had been “deliberately engineered from within Eskom”.

Mbeki said the early days of load-shedding had nothing to do with government failure. Instead, he claimed it was “a deliberate attempt to compromise the electricity supply”.

Although he initially apologised on behalf of the government for load-shedding, he said he discovered in 2019 that this apology had been misplaced.

“Eskom’s executive management and board did not heed warnings from employees that Eskom was facing a potential shortage of coal by December 2007,” Mbeki said.

“The declaration of an emergency could thus have been avoided with the exercise of reasonable care.”

“Eskom station managers had defied instructions to replenish their coal stocks until they ran out of coal. This was a deliberate attempt to compromise the supply of electricity.”

Former President Thabo Mbeki

Madhi said former president Thabo Mbeki would not make these comments without credible information.

“From our perspective, it is plausible. The load-shedding in 2008 was sudden and an unusual event,” he said.

Another matter to consider is that load-shedding essentially disappeared after it initially occurred in 2007 and 2008.

These chronic power shortages, which resulted in load-shedding, disappeared six years before they raised their head again.

“This strange situation raises questions and requires some explanation. It has not been fully investigated,” Madhi said.

In the early 2000s, Eskom was ranked among the top electricity utilities globally. It even won the Power Company of the Year award in the Financial Times’ annual Global Energy Awards in 2001.

He said going from being the best in the world to running out of power and having to implement load-shedding is unusual.

“Load-shedding in 2008 was unusual, and Mbeki’s claims are plausible. However, without the necessary information, it is not possible to conclusively say what is true,” he said.


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