A truck driver and his supervisor were arrested for allegedly swapping out good-quality coal, and delivering sub-standard product to Eskom’s Matla power station on Monday.
"The arrests took place after the truck driver was found to be in possession of sub-grade coal destined for the facility. The coal swapping allegedly took place at a known illegal coal yard in the Mpumalanga area, prior to the delivery being made at the Matla power station," Eskom said on Wednesday.
The power utility said a specialist team of investigators from Bidvest Protea Coin, who are contracted to Eskom to investigate coal, diesel and fuel oil theft cases, tracked the truck as it entered and left the illegal coal yard and headed to the power station.
"During questioning, the truck driver admitted to offloading the 'good-quality' coal he had received from the Arthur Taylor Colliery, located in Mpumalanga. He further alleged that he was acting on the instructions of his supervisor when he proceeded to the Rondebult coal yard to exchange the coal."
The two were arrested and a case was opened with the police.
This is the third major arrest in two weeks linked to efforts to steal coal and fuel from Eskom. All three arrests have involved the Bidvest Protea Coin team.
On Monday two security guards employed by a company contracted by Eskom to protect the Port Rex power station in East London were arrested for alleged involvement in the theft of almost 6 000 litres of diesel, worth as estimated R146 000. During night shifts the guards allegedly permitted a vehicle to collect the stolen diesel from the site, for which they were paid in return.
Last week a truck driver was arrested at Eskom’s Camden station also for allegedly swapping out good coal. Eskom said at the time that the said the investigator from Bidvest Protea Coin was offered a R50 000 bribe for the driver to be released. The investigator proceeded with the arrest.
There was another arrest at the same station the week before that, where a contractor, who was employed by a maintenance company working at the power station, said his employer was promised additional maintenance and repair jobs at the power station if he carried out sabotage. He admitted to intentionally removing the oil drain plug from a bearing on Thursday last week, causing oil burners to trip repeatedly.
CHASING CRIMINALS AND STEALING SUNSHINE
This week Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe likened Eskom CEO André de Ruyter to a "policeman" who is focused on "chasing criminals, " without a grasp of the power utility's challenges.
Mantashe told News24 that De Ruyter must be replaced with someone who has the technical capacity to turn Eskom around.
De Ruyter said at an event last week that arrests were made by private security companies employed by Eskom, not by the SA Police Service.
"We have to do our own investigations, we have to apprehend the suspects, and then finally we hand them over because we don’t have powers of law enforcement.
READ | SA sun and wind, unlike Eskom's coal, can't be stolen by 'sophisticated' crooks, says De Ruyter
"But there is a clear challenge in the province of Mpumalanga with organised crime. To pretend that it’s a few isolated incidents is not substantiated by the facts. It all links together in quite sophisticated networks that steal billions of rands from Eskom every year."
He said spoke about the move away from coal towards renewable energy sources.
"The one good thing about the sun and wind is that it cannot be stolen, first of all. It also cannot be exported to China, beneficiated there, and then be sold back to us."