According to Eskom, theft of heavy fuel oil is a highly organized criminal activity. The gangs involved are enriched by the proceeds of the illegal trade in the stolen product.
Heavy fuel oil is used to start and stop coal-fired power plants. It is also used in a range of industrial applications, including marine vessels, and can play a role in reducing blackouts. South Africa has Show interest In securing additional power from Carpowership vessels that burn heavy fuel oil.
Fuel theft is having a countrywide impact, and immediate action is required to create long-term solutions. One of the short-term plans envisioned by Electricity Minister Kgosincho Ramukjuba to alleviate the country’s electricity crisis is to use diesel to power open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) at Eskom.
OCGTs are used to make up for shortfalls in generation capacity when there is an interruption and Malfunctions at Eskom coal-fired plants. Theft of heavy fuel oil threatens such plans.
Crackdown on theft
On Thursday 20 July, Chief Superintendent of Eskom Sphiwe Sindane and truck driver Loveless Mabaso appeared before the Kriel Magistrates Court in Mpumalanga on charges of theft and fraud for allegedly stealing fuel which was intended for the Matla coal-fired power station in the county.
Mabasu worked for a company that was subcontracted to supply heavy fuel to Eskom. The pair were arrested on July 19 on charges of conspiracy to defraud Eskom. They were placed on remand.
According to National Police spokeswoman Atlinda Mathey, an investigation by the Police Priorities Committee on Security Energy led to the arrests.
Mathi said Sundin and Mabaso sold the fuel oil and handed it over to someone they knew. She added that the couple later submitted a false invoice to Eskom claiming to have delivered fuel. Eskom suffered a loss of R1 million.
“Since the establishment of the Security Energy Priority Committee by the SAPS National Commissioner, General Fanny Masimula, from April 1, 2022 to date, the Priority Committee is currently investigating 1,586 cases related to Eskom,” Mathi said.
So far, 126 arrests have been made. It said items worth one billion rand had been recovered, including 42 firearms, 83 loads of coal and mining machinery.
Eskom confirmed the theft in a statement on July 22, saying that a shift supervisor from Matla power station and a heavy fuel tanker driver had been taken into custody on charges of fraud and theft.
The drivers were dumping the fuel oil in unknown locations before they reached the power station. After that, the tankers enter the power plant empty. Scale coupons will be fraudulently recorded and printed as if the ordered oil/fuel product has been unloaded.
“Theft of fuel oil is a highly organized criminal activity, and the gangs involved are enriched through proceeds from the illegal trade in stolen products. Eskom continues to lose billions due to misappropriation and fraud of these essential commodities, which directly affects production.”
Heavy fuel oil theft is not a new phenomenon in Mpumalanga. The aging Eskom plant in the county is the alleged focus of a complex theft involving A fuel drain worth millions of rand With the help of corrupt officials, trucking companies, and the police.
It seems that the problem goes beyond Eskom. In March last year, amaBhungane open How armed gangs were stealing fuel from buried pipes owned by Transnet.
The enormity of Eskom’s problems is controversial Intelligence ratings It allegedly links two senior members of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to four criminal syndicates operating within Eskom.
Other reported incidents of fuel/diesel theft from Eskom include:
- Angelo Cysman, 40-year-old plant operator at the Ankerlig Power Plant in Atlantis, Accused of stealing R500,000 worth of diesel.
- In November 2022, Two security guards were arrested In connection with the theft of diesel worth R145,930 from the Eskom plant. The guards were employed by a security company contracted by Eskom and guarded the Port Rex gas turbine plant in east London.
This is not the first time that the Matla power plant has made headlines for the wrong reasons.
In March this year, Dear innocent Lorda senior buyer employed by Eskom at Matla, 71-year-old Rabela Sarah Jones and her son Godfrey Jason Jones were arrested on suspicion of defrauding the energy utility of more than R14 million.
They are currently facing charges of theft, fraud and money laundering. DM