Angelo Cysman, a 40-year-old plant operator at the Ankerlig power station in Atlantis, is accused of stealing diesel worth R500,000. Speaking on condition of anonymity, workers at the plant told Daily Maverick that Cysman’s arrest was merely the tip of the iceberg, and that diesel theft at Ankerlig had been continuing for some time.
Cysman allegedly allowed a vehicle to collect stolen diesel from the site, declared the diesel tanker was empty and that all the fuel had been offloaded, and then allowed the vehicle to leave with the stolen load.
He is charged with theft, but additional charges and more arrests are expected.
Cysman was arrested on 23 December and spent the Christmas weekend behind bars before appearing briefly in the Atlantis Magistrates’ Court on 28 December. He is currently out on R50,000 bail.
According to the power utility, diesel is used for powering the open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) at Ankerlig and Gourikwa power stations, which have a combined generation capacity of 2,000 MW — equivalent to two stages of load shedding.
The OCGTs are used to make up for a shortfall in generation capacity during outages and breakdowns at Eskom’s coal-fired stations. If OCGTs run efficiently, they enable Eskom to avoid implementing higher stages of load shedding.
According to Hawks spokesperson Zinzi Hani, Cysman was arrested at home while on suspension.
“Through internal investigations, it was established that the plant operator permitted a vehicle to collect the stolen diesel… he declared the diesel tanker empty and that all diesel had been offloaded, whereas it was not.
“An internal investigation was conducted by Eskom and was then referred to the Hawks… for further probing.”
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Diesel theft is part of a larger national problem that affects Eskom’s ability to keep the lights on.
In November 2022, two security guards were arrested in connection with the theft of diesel worth R145,930 from an Eskom plant. The guards were employed by a security company contracted by Eskom and had been guarding the Port Rex gas turbine station in East London.
Also in November 2022, an Eskom subcontractor was arrested for allegedly tampering with essential infrastructure at the Camden power station in Mpumalanga, News24 reported. National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Monica Nyuswa was quoted in TimesLIVE as saying the incident cost Eskom more than R1-million.
Eskom has attributed the rolling blackouts to constraints from its diesel suppliers, which affect the availability of bulk diesel to fuel its gas turbines.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Found: 50 million litres of diesel for 15 days of relief — but source of funding future supplies remains uncertain”
Business Maverick recently reported that eight months into its current financial year, ending 31 March 2023, Eskom had already exceeded its diesel budget of R12-billion. For this period, it had an initial diesel budget of R6.1-billion, later revised to R11.1-billion. By November, the power utility had spent R12-billion on diesel.
Rolling blackouts set to worsen and reach higher stages as Eskom runs out of money for diesel supplies
Sabotage, theft, failing infrastructure and the consequences of years of corruption have seen South Africans emerge from a year of the highest number of blackouts to date.
Members of the South African National Defence Force have been deployed in response to the growing threat of sabotage, vandalism and theft at Eskom’s power plants.
Cysman is scheduled to appear in court again on 24 February. DM