- This article on Medupi Power Plant was originally published on 26 November 2019. It has since been edited from its original version, in order to reflect its role in the newly-implemented round of Stage 6 load shedding.
President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted a working visit to Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Limpopo last month. He should’ve made a start at knocking it down. The plant that was meant to help end power outages has actually set Eskom back a few years, and is being blamed for Stage 6 load shedding.
It’s not the first time Medupi has been in the headlines, and we can categorically assure you this won’t be the last. We’re taking a look at the biggest own goals the facility has scored over the years. We just hope Cyril doesn’t get a wrist injury from all the notes he’s going to have to take.
Medupi’s biggest scandals:
Taking the fall for Stage 6 load shedding
The absolute state of the f***er: Eskom announced on Monday evening that “a technical problem at Medupi Power Station impacting additional generation supply” had helped plunge South Africa into its worst-ever stage of load shedding. You can read more about what Stage 6 actually means here…
Hilariously, the much-maligned facility might have even “broken the internet”, in its own special way. The Eskom Se Push app – which alerts users to upcoming bouts of load shedding – usually has a detailed breakdown of what each stage means. But was it ready for DEFCON 6? Absolutely not…
Errrrrrr is this a little “Loadshedding” humour, or 😳
And what would Stage SIX even LOOK LIKE@EskomSePush
— Karen Anne Bloem (@kabloemski) December 9, 2019
Missing their deadlines
Medupi was initially supposed to start producing power back in 2011, then 2013 and now, it will only be fully operational in 2020, a year late. The facility was meant to be South Africa’s saving grace in terms of electricity production, but instead it has been nothing but a headache to the government, Eskom and the South African people.
Medupi delays blamed on “ancestors”
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (The CRL Commission) did little to ease the public distrust of Medupi. Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi said that the site was ‘cursed’, due to it being built near a burial ground. How Scooby-Doo is that?
“It’s the bones underneath and in the vicinity. Some of the graves were destroyed there. The belief systems of some people will tell you that this Medupi dream of yours will never happen. It will be another 10 years.”
The state-owned power utility confirmed that its technicians were working at the Medupi Power Station to try and fix coal-related problems. The issues the power station was facing were the reason for the load shedding that South Africa faced last month, with some citizens saying their power went out during crucial Springboks games at the Rugby World Cup.
The Hitachi Scandal
The group, who paid billions to supply Medupi’s boilers, admitted that they made improper payments to the ANC’s investment company, Chancellor House, to the value of $6 million in the process leading up to the tender being awarded. They were slammed for what is described as a “lax internal control environment” that allowed millions of dollars to flow to Chancellor House that helped secure government business.
Medupi is “poisoning the people”
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development – a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced. But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high, and Medupi is one of the contributors to this humanitarian problem.
Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits. They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery. Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016,
The billion-rand panic
A loan of R33bn been earmarked for the development of the Medupi and Kusile power plants by Chinese investors. However, during a recent round of load shedding – in part caused by Medupi’s shoddy infrastructure – the money-men decided to withhold a R7bn instalment, plunging Eskom into further crisis.