Avatar photo

By Martin Williams

Councillor at City

Who would sabotage Eskom?

Given the timing of the latest stage 6 jolt, soon after Ramaphosa’s boasts during his State of the Nation Address, there are suspicions that some folk sought to embarrass him.

Was it sabotage? When Eskom first ramped up rolling blackouts to stage 6 in 2019, stage fright was induced.

A perpetually shocked President Cyril Ramaphosa, curtailing a visit to Egypt, rushed home and blamed sabotage.

Nowadays stage 6 is still frightening and sabotage remains accused number one. Given the timing of the latest stage 6 jolt, soon after Ramaphosa’s boasts during his State of the Nation Address, there are suspicions that some folk sought to embarrass him.

For those who missed his speech, here are two gems: “We set out a clear plan to end load shedding, which we have been implementing with a single-minded focus through the national energy crisis committee.”

And later: “Through all of these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load-shedding is finally within reach.”

There was laughter, even from the ANC benches. After all, this same Ramaphosa said in September 2015: “In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and energy and Eskom ever happened.”

En kyk hoe lyk hy nou.

ALSO READ: WATCH: ‘Load shedding isn’t the end of the world’ – ANC MP during Sona debate

Ramaphosa’s already waning credibility dropped further with the latest stage 6.

This time, the sabotage excuse came from ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who suffers from a credibility deficit worse than Ramaphosa’s. But are they both necessarily wrong about sabotage at Eskom?

In his book Truth to Power, former Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter, says: “Sabotage at power stations is real, but it can be tricky, sometimes impossible, to distinguish it from mere incompetence.”

And in a country in the thrall of cadre deployment, incompetence cannot be ruled out. When party loyalty trumps competence, one logical consequence is suboptimal competence.

In his book, De Ruyter says Ramaphosa’s 2019 allegation of sabotage astonished then Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza and chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer, “who knew the actual reasons, which could only be blamed on incompetence”.

Yet, the possibility of sabotage clearly lingered for De Ruyter. By 2021, “conclusive evidence of sabotage at Eskom” was one of the reasons he decided to bring in investigative skills from the private sector. This step ultimately led to De Ruyter’s departure from Eskom.

Who would want to sabotage Eskom? And why? When the accusation is made by Ramaphosa or Mbalula, there is an unspoken implication that their political opponents are the saboteurs.

ALSO READ: Tshwane’s plan to collect R1bn every month

Conspiracy theorists also suggest Eskom crises are timed to influence decisions about whether electricity tariff increases should be granted, where lights are switched off as a reminder of what can happen if Eskom does not get more money.

There have also been allegations of multiple crime cartels and “territorial rulers” making fortunes at Eskom. They presumably don’t want their income streams disrupted by radical changes.

All this provides fertile grounds for accusations of sabotage. But proof is elusive.

Would De Ruyter have found watertight proof had he stayed on?

Ramaphosa, with the state’s entire crimefighting arsenal at his disposal, is unable to substantiate the allegation of sabotage.

He lacks the decisiveness and political clout to root out Eskom sabotage.

Cleaning up Eskom requires a change of government. Electrify your vote. Use your power.

ALSO READ: The apocalypse is on our stoeps

Read more on these topics

Cyril Ramaphosa Eskom Load Shedding Stage 6