South Africa May be Undergoing the Greatest Economic and Political Shift Since 1994

South Africa may be undergoing the greatest economic and political shift since 1994

by David Cherry ,        23 January 2022

The near-collapse of Eskom—the beating heart of the country—which had been allowed to happen by a combination of incompetence and oligarchic malevolence, may soon be turned around, thanks to the ANC’s reelection of Ramaphosa as its President, and the ANC’s political resolution to put Eskom under the control of Energy Minister and patriot Gwede Mantashe. Eskom CEO and saboteur  Andre de Ruyter will be out in a matter of weeks [1].

Minister Gwede Mantashe

A new regime of repair and maintenance of existing coal-fired power plants is the key to ending most load-shedding and restoring economic and political stability. For example, the country has two brand new plants of major size, one of which has units still under construction. When complete, they will provide 9,600 MW. Currently they should be producing 7,200 MW, but there is already damage to one of them, which shuts down 800 MW.

Load-shedding is at an unprecedented high of 6,000 MW.

South Africa does have plans in place for more coal-fired and nuclear power generation, and these should be sped up, but the restoration of existing capacity is the economic and political question of the hour.

During an interview with internationally recognized  nuclear physicist and former chairman of the board of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, on the short-term outlook at Eskom, the parameters were set out:

In Dr Kemm`s opinion a quasi-military approach at Eskom to repairs and maintenance could accomplish much.
To the question of how much loadshedding he estimates could be ended in six months by the Department for Mineral Resources and Energy`s management of repairs and maintenance, and by better policing of cable theft , Dr Kemm said:

I spoke to Andre de Ruyter last April and offered to go into Eskom to help with the maintenance. Also the rebuilding of staff morale. He said “no thanks we are handling it.” But they were not.

In many of the power stations, the maintenance has been poor. This has largely been because their procedures are not being correctly followed.

A notable exception is Koeberg, which is running extremely well because with nuclear procedures, everything is very strictly controlled.

In the other plants, very formal discipline was allowed to slip, and so teams were not making a hundred percent sure, and every so often, this has led to some fault. This is what I meant by staff morale.

So, I think quite a bit of the load-shedding can be cut by addressing the maintenance in a more stringent fashion. That means sending in people (managers and team leaders) who have to be rather harsh.

The cable theft issue is rather different and is not essentially associated with Eskom.
It has turned out that there are mafia-style gangs systematically organising cable theft and then exporting the copper, or recycling the copper somehow into the system.
It is all rather professionally arranged, and it appears that South Africa has become quite a target of international mafia-style gangs.

As far as criminal activity is concerned, we also need a much more harsh approach. There have been too many cases of people being caught, and then when they end up in front of a judge, the judge is lenient and lets them off with a warning or some relatively minor fine.
They must have a minimum of a couple of years in prison if anybody is found stealing a cable. To my mind, cable theft should be addressed in the courts as something like Sabotage and not as theft. The courts are treating cable theft in the same way as theft of something like motor car parts from a car spare part shop. The ‘relatively minor theft’ gets a light sentence or a suspended sentence. The courts are looking at cable theft as ‘what is the value of the stolen items’ not ‘what is the value of the damage done to a neighbourhood that was without electricity for 4 hours’. Therefore, for the cable thieves, it is a worthwhile gamble to steal the cable, and if you get caught, the consequences are not too bad.

Of course, what has to happen with the cable theft is that the big guys need to be caught, just like the mafia was tackled in New York. The copper is being smuggled out of the country via kingpins who sometimes are not even in South Africa. One needs a military-style operation to find those top guys and to arrest them or to neutralize them somehow. Again this should be treated as Sabotage against the country, and I would even go so far as to advocate that we use military special forces teams to find them and apprehend them like we would if somebody was militarily attacking the country.”

Dr Kemm was asked if in addition to recruiting Eskom retirees, does SANDF (the South African National Defence Force) have engineers and technicians who could help?

To which he replied: ” The SANDF does have some technicians and interestingly I was just talking to a General yesterday who phoned me and I said Eskom should use retired officers to go to power stations and take charge of maintenance teams. It might be necessary to change some legislation or introduce existing emergency legislation. For example, if some maintenance team is working and lunchtime comes around, you need a retired Army officer or Sergeant Major who says: ‘nobody goes to lunch until this thing is done and is done perfectly’. You can’t say: the trade union rules say that there is a lunch break.

If the team is outdoors and it’s raining, the Sergeant Major must scream, ‘Get on your faces in the mud and get it done.’

Concerning the Eskom side of criminality: (cable theft is not Eskom) an example is: recently, a truck driver delivering coal to a mine was found to have a load where half the coal had been removed and replaced with ordinary sand and stones, so that it passed the Weighbridge test.

The driver was caught and arrested, but then said that it wasn’t really his fault because his boss gave him such instructions. The courts let him off with a warning.

Recent investigations of criminal activity have uncovered mafia-type operations in which coal has been systematically stolen and replaced with sand and stones.Stones then get into the system and break pipework and so on. There has also been mafia-style infiltration into supply lines for spares. So substandard spares have been supplied, or spares are supplied late because they have to go ‘through the Channel’, which is controlled by the mafia Kingpin.”

Source: David Cherry

[1] see previous articles published on this website under `Eskom` including:

Eskom Utility Succumbs to Green Death. Could this be Africa`s tipping point? by EIR staff

Putting Coal into the African Perspective by PD Lawton

And Now they Blame the Energy Minister by PD Lawton



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