Sabotage claim a mystery to Eskom

Sabotage claim a mystery to Eskom

1 March 2006

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South Africa — A senior Eskom spokesperson is mystified by government allegations that Koeberg’s damaged No 1 generator was sabotaged.

“This must be a matter for police and security forces,” said Tony Stott at Eskom head office in Johannesburg.

“Eskom has no details of sabotage.”

On Tuesday, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin announced that damage caused to Unit 1 in December by a loose bolt was the result of sabotage. He declined to say more and attempts to reach him later failed, as he was said to be busy in a series ofmeetings.

Erwin said on Tuesday that the National Intelligence Agency and the police were investigating and arrests were imminent.

Critics are charging the revelations are an election ploy to divert attention from Eskom’s failure to plan ahead or perform propermaintenance.

Keith Gottschalk, a political analyst at the University of the Western Cape, said that on the day before an election, any claims made by a political party should be taken in the same spirit as the cheers of sports fans in a grandstand five minutes before a match started.

“The test will be if somebody is actually prosecuted and if there is enough evidence to ensure a conviction. The evidence so far indicates culpable negligence – you have to prove sabotage.

“Certainly whichever worker is responsible for leaving the bolt in the unit, which-ever supervisor supervised the worker, and the stocktaker responsible for the parts should be the first three people one shouldquestion.”

DA leader Tony Leon said he was shocked at what he described as the government’s abuse of power in claiming sabotage was behind the power cuts.

“People know it is negligence,” he said.

He likened Erwin’s claims to the apartheid government blaming “unknown elements” whenever anything went wrong.

Stott and Charles Kadalie, the city’s public lighting manager, agreed that the problem with Koeberg’s Unit 1, whether sabotage or accident, did not contribute to the cuts. Even if both units had been fully operational, the other problems would have caused cuts, Kadalie said.

“Maybe the process to restart (the Unit 2 generator) might have been quicker had both units been operational, but we would still have had a power outage,” he said.

Last week, Koeberg had to shut down when mist and veld fire ash deposited on insulators caused short circuits at the Muldersvlei distribution site.

This led to instability in the network and shut down Unit 2. It took a week to get the unit back up again, only for it to crash early yesterday when the main transmission line went down near Worcester. Stott said it was not known why the cable at Worcester had broken. It was repaired early today.

“We will only have that information once the technical team who fixed the problem have completed their investigation and written their report.”

Erwin said in his dramatic announcement that suspects had been identified in the course of investigations.

“The bolt that caused the generator’s destruction did not get there by accident,” Erwin said.

The Minister of Minerals and Energy, Lindiwe Hendricks, said the problems at Koeberg “curiously coincide with an important process in the democratic calendar of the country” – the local government elections.

“It has become clear that the recent event cannot just be linked to inadequate transmission or generation capacity. Clearly other forces are at play here,” she said.

Erwin said negotiations were being concluded with French electricity supplier EDF for parts to fix Unit 1.

Eskom spokesperson Fani Zulu could not explain why anyone would sabotage Koeberg, despite reported claims of responsibility. “From the beginning we have not discounted anything, and we expected anything,” he said.

Hours after Erwin’s announcement, an unnamed group sent an email to 702 Talk Radio, claiming it had sabotaged the power station.

Public Enterprises spokesperson Gaynor Kast said Erwin, police and the intelligence agency were aware of the claim but could not comment. 


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