Eskom exposed after guards’ withdrawal

Embattled power utility Eskom has withdrawn security guards from some sub-stations, prompting concerns that critical infrastructure could be vandalised and leading to millions of rand in losses and costly power cuts.

Sunday World can reveal that some security companies at the crucial state-owned enterprise are up in arms after they were told to withdraw their guards from some of the sub-stations.

It has emerged that the decision by the bureaucrats has angered Karen Pillay, acting general for security at Eskom.

In an e-mail last month, Thomas Tshabalala, Eskom’s Gauteng security
manager, informed security contractors that they have to reduce guards at sub-stations. He noted the utility’s Gauteng security department held a meeting with contractors last month regarding the reduction of security guards.

“Kindly take note that we are consolidating the information regarding your remaining allocated budget.  I will revert back shortly to verify how many guards/posts we have to reduce in order to ensure that we don’t have to spend beyond the remaining allocated budget to avoid condonation,” Tshabalala told contractors.

Sunday World has learnt that close to 20 sites in Gauteng have been hit by the removal of security guards. In Johannesburg, Northrand, Vorna Valley, Kamal, Imphophoma, Dalkheit and Waterfall sub-stations were affected by the reduction of security guards.

In Soweto, Moroka, Mofolo Rugraat and Meadowlands sub-stations have had guards withdrawn.

In Tshwane, security has been cut at the Nonyane and Fairfield sub-stations, among others. Emza, Ironside and Kookrus in the Vaal have also been affected.

Eskom sub-stations are a target by thieves from outside and inside the organisation. In April, the power utilityin Gauteng said it was concerned about the increasing number of its staff involved in the theft of infrastructure.

Last month, the Association of Private Security Owners of South Africa wrote to Eskom chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano to raise concerns about the withdrawal of security guards at the power utility’s sub-stations.

Eskom did not answer detailed questions. “Eskom is unable to comment on this issue at the moment as this involves commercially sensitive information and might expose our assets to risk,” said the power entity.

Energy expert Ted Bloom said the decision to cut security was a short-sighted measure, especially if the physical security is not replaced by other surveillance systems.

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