The minister of Electricity, Dr. Ramokgopa, projects an authoritative, hands-on grasp in pursuing the task of catching up with the backlog of maintenance at Eskom (The Mercury, September 6). But his script mirrors what Andre De Ruyter highlighted in his book Truth to Power published six months ago.
Of course, it is refreshing to note Dr Rakokgopa’s philosophy is “to stick to planned maintenance.” For De Ruyter, planned maintenance meant taking 18 percent of the system off the grid at any time for necessary routine maintenance (p 186). But he found that difficult to implement because he was told the lights had to be kept on. So for political reasons, such planned maintenance was stalled. That meant running power stations “with the proverbial rev-counter in the red” as De Ruyter expressed it (p 300).
In De Ruyter’s time, the cooling towers at Kriel and Matla had become highly ineffective as a result of poor maintenance. He noted that it would take three months to effect the necessary repairs. So now, two years later, Dr. Ramokgopa says they have to be shut down “for urgent repairs.”
In conceding that such repairs will lead to intensified load shedding, Dr Ramokgopa will discover what De Ruyter warned about: reliability of the existing stations is already “trending inexorably downwards” (p189) which places additional strain on them and the prospect of further load shedding.
An important discovery De Ruyter made was the operation of four highly organised criminal cartels directly fleecing Matla, Tutuka, Majuba, and Duvha power stations. As a result, their depredations are a contributing factor to capacity constraints (p 147).
While it is satisfying to note that “Eskom teams are working tirelessly to return generating units to service,” to what extent does that apply to the eradication of the criminal cartels which, as De Ruyter discovered, are politically connected?