Thieves, vandals cause over R20m damage to Eskom towers
Johannesburg – Theft and vandalism of pylons, stay wires and conductors have been blamed on the collapse of six Eskom towers outside Welkom in the Free State.
The cost of repairing those towers was expected to be over R20 million.
This was revealed by Miranda Moahlodi, senior manager for Occupational Health and Safety at Eskom during the Public Safety campaign that focused on educating people across the country about the impact of the theft and vandalising of towers.
She said “criminal behaviour” also put additional pressure on Eskom’s already strained resources that could have been used elsewhere, especially given the many storms experienced across the country recently.
Moahlodi said if any of the steel components of an electricity tower or pylon was removed, the tower was compromised in terms of strength and support.
“So in the case of bad weather conditions such as strong winds or storms, these weakened towers could collapse – and often the one tower could then pull down a few more towers with it as they are connected by the high-voltage lines.
’’Once the towers have collapsed, the live high-voltage lines (carrying thousands of volts) could kill any person or animal coming into contact with them. These lines usually serve towns, and if one tower collapses, the nearby towns, businesses and mines will all be without power,” she said.
Moahlodi also said the cost of replacing fallen electricity towers was huge.
Rebuilding a fallen tower, she said, ranged between R3 and R4 million while the cost of replacing the stolen steel from towers could range between R40 000 and R200 000 per tower.
“This is money that Eskom does not budget for which means that it could have rather been used for strengthening of the electricity networks in areas where that is needed.”
Eskom has also identified illegal sand mining as an activity that impacts on high- and medium-voltage towers.
According to Moahlodi, during a ground inspection in September, the Eskom patrol team discovered the stay wire anchor on tower 520 of the Arnot-Maputo 400kV line was exposed due to illegal commercial sand-mining activities around the base of the stay wire that keeps the tower upright.
“Sand had been excavated deeply around the base of the stay wire of the tower, hence an emergency was declared because the tower could imminently collapse if the foundation was subjected to moderate storms or windy conditions.
“These deplorable acts of theft and vandalism are strongly condemned and should be reported to the local Eskom offices or police immediately,” Moahlodi said.