A recently uncovered Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report has found that the country’s first load shedding experience may have been partly engineered by Eskom employees who ignored repeated warnings that coal stocks were running low.
This ‘self-created emergency’ was introduced so that Eskom would sign contracts to benefit coal suppliers, reports the City Press.
This subsequently cost South Africa R14.5 trillion in emergency coal contracts during the first round of load shedding in 2008.
Some of these emergency contracts lasted for 10 years – expiring only at the end of 2018.
The report, which City Press obtained, was handed to former president Jacob Zuma in July 2017 after a four-year investigation but was never released by the presidency.
“The emergency situation that Eskom found itself in was self-created and thus could have been avoided by the exercise of reasonable care,” the report found.
“The board of directors did not respond to warnings that the coal stocks were reaching dangerously low levels prior to January 2008 and that the threat of load shedding was a strong possibility.”
The SIU report pointing to the load shedding crisis being manufactured by Eskom itself is third such report to say as much.
In 2015 and 2017, law firm Dentons as well as Deloitte published reports that had similar claims.
Both of those reports found that Eskom employees had used the crisis to circumvent procurement procedures to secure emergency “blackout coal” in contracts worth billions of rands.
Dentons found that some of the contractors who benefited from the R30 billion Eskom spent on diesel for its open cycle gas turbines between 2013 and 2015 – were companies that had no footprint in the industry and that may have been set up by Eskom employees themselves.
Deloitte found that Eskom bought R10-billion worth of emergency coal during the 2008 power crisis, much of which Eskom employees distributed to known associates through irregular contracts.
While load shedding may have originally been artificially introduced in 2008, it still remains a very real problem for the country.
Eskom suspended load shedding on Sunday 24 March following a period of more than 10 days of continuous outages.
The power utility attributed the return of power to a recovery in plant performance and an increase in diesel and water reserves.
Imports from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa plant also increased to 850MW, with the restoration of feed from one of the two lines after the area was hit by a cyclone.
However, experts have warned that load shedding could last for at least several months as the power provider deals with ageing infrastructure and winter.