Eskom sabotage battle

Sabotage no longer has any meaningful impact on Eskom’s operations after over R500 million has been spent on deploying the army at its power stations and key infrastructure installations. 

The power utility told Daily Investor that the decline in sabotage is due to collaborative efforts with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the police. 

In its response, Eskom did not mention the cost to the taxpayer of this deployment and increased police presence. 

The Presidency first mandated the army’s deployment to Eskom’s power stations in December 2022, hoping it would only be needed for a few months. 

President Ramaphosa said the SANDF’s role was limited to helping the police and other law enforcement agencies protect key infrastructure at Eskom.

This would entail the deployment of soldiers at Majuba, Camden, Grootvlei, and Tutuka, which was determined by a security threat analysis. 

In total, around 2,700 soldiers were deployed under Operation Prosper, which includes protecting other national key points and preventing illegal mining.  

However, this initial deployment had little impact on the incidents of sabotage, theft, and vandalism at Eskom, requiring the extension of the deployment in May 2023 for another year and an increase in the number of soldiers to 880.

The deployment was again extended this year, now lasting until the end of March 2025, but the number of soldiers was reduced to 746 to cut costs. 

Since the army was first deployed, protecting Eskom’s power stations has cost taxpayers around R461 million. The latest extension is set to cost an additional R203.9 million. 

Questions have been raised about who would pay for the deployment, with the Department of Defence in severe financial difficulty. 

Defence Minister Thandi Modise said she was hopeful the Department of Public Enterprises would pay for the deployment as its infrastructure was being effectively protected. 

Modise, in response to a question in Parliament, said the deployment had enabled Eskom to repair, maintain, and secure its power stations. 

The presence of soldiers at Eskom facilities “contributed to reducing load shedding and enabled the government to continue work toward stabilising and implement the Energy Action Plan”.

In response to further questions from Daily Investor, Eskom said the end of the army’s deployment has not yet been determined and will continue as long as the President mandates it. 

The utility welcomed continued collaboration with law enforcement agencies to safeguard its power stations, infrastructure, and other National Key points. 

While the Presidency has been clear about the costs of deploying the army, Eskom has also increased its security efforts without revealing the cost. 

Eskom told Daily Investor that it has continuously improved its crime prevention, monitoring, detection and response strategies. 

“Both human capital and technology resources are employed to fight the theft, vandalism and tampering of infrastructure scourge,” it said without giving details on the scale or cost associated. 

Eskom remains particularly focused on enhancing its crime-fighting capabilities within its Generation division by improving its monitoring and detection strategies. 

‘Shadow economy’ stealing billions

Andre de Ruyter
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter

The sudden decline in sabotage at Eskom’s power stations follows claims from former CEO Andre de Ruyter that an entire ‘shadow economy’ was stealing billions from the utility. 

At the end of last year, De Ruyter claimed this shadow economy is tolerated and may even be supported by the government. 

“It appears that it is, if not explicitly condoned, then at least tolerated, and we simply have to get to grips with the existence of this shadow economy,” he said. 

“It seems to me that there are senior people, whether that be in politics or in the cartels or both, that are out there and still continue to benefit from what is going on.”

Eskom’s former CEO estimated that around R1 billion a month was stolen from Eskom during his tenure. 

“The amount of money that is available in this shadow economy, in this criminal enterprise, is so large that they can buy influence. They can buy immunity. At the end of the day, they can buy the direction of policy.”

De Ruyter claimed that these criminal elements are delaying the transition away from coal and to cheaper, greener technologies out of fear that they will lose this chance to enrich themselves. 


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