Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s claims that corruption at the utility is not the cause of load-shedding is wrong.
This formed part of a discussion during De Ruyter’s appearance before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).
Scopa invited De Ruyter to brief the committee following his tell-all interview with eNCA’s Annika Larsen, in which he made serious allegations against ANC politicians and top government officials.
At the Scopa hearing, DA MP Alf Lees asked De Ruyter his opinion on statements Ramokgopa made during his recent power station roadshow.
Ramokgopa has largely denied or downplayed the role corruption has played in the country’s energy crisis, ascribing many of the problems at power stations to “technical problems”.
He has mentioned the role of corruption at two of South Africa’s worst-performing power stations: Kusile and Tutuka.
In response to Lees’ question, De Ruyter said he did not want to characterise the minister as “lying” but, ultimately, “corruption does contribute to load-shedding”.
He agreed with a recent National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) statement. The union “categorically and emphatically” disagreed with the minister’s claims that corruption does not contribute to persistent load-shedding.
Kusile is expected to be one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants, with a plan to have six units and a total installed capacity of 4,800MW.
Kusile has been riddled with problems that have postponed its full commercial operation dates numerous times.
Ramokgopa identified Kusile as Eskom’s worst-performing power station during his roadshow.
De Ruyter said in his eNCA interview that a corrupt tender awarded to Hitachi Power Africa is to blame for Kusile’s poor performance – a claim he repeated at the Scopa hearing.
He said a R38 billion tender given to Hitachi to provide Kusile and Medupi Power Station with boiler units resulted in three of Kusile’s four units being offline.
“If the boilers had been appropriately designed, then the issue of a higher exhaust gas velocity, which caused the carry-over of ash and gypsum into the duct that eventually collapsed, leading to the outage of three units, would not have taken place,” he said at the hearing.
However, Ramokgopa has dismissed De Ruyter’s claim that corruption is to blame, attributing Kusile’s poor performance to technical and structural problems at the power station.
During his visit to Kusile, Ramokgopa said, “The challenges we’ve had here are technical problems. They have nothing to do with so-called corruption.”
Tutuka was commissioned in 1985, and its last unit went online in July 1990. It has six units capable of producing 609MW each and, therefore, has a total installed capacity of 3,654MW.
However, it is one of Eskom’s worst-performing power stations, with an average output of only 1,170MW.
Ramokgopa identified Tutuka as Eskom’s second most problematic power station.
While the minister has largely blamed Tutuka’s poor output on technical problems – including poor quality coal – he has mentioned corruption at the station.
“Here is the first time I get to a station where they say, ‘We think there is corruption here, especially in procurement.’ The speed with which you get spares parts, the price of these parts – you can see that there is collusion and something that requires attention,” he said.
However, De Ruyter claims corruption is rife at Tutuka and has affected far more than procurement and has cost the country millions.
In an affidavit, De Ruyter said, “Intolerable levels of criminality plaguing Tutuka are undoubtedly a significant contributor to its unacceptably low EAF.”