President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed the efforts of law enforcement agencies and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) to bust coal smuggling syndicates operating in the country.
Planned search and seizure operations targeting coal smuggling syndicates have gained traction across five provinces with the documents of individuals alleged to have committed procurement fraud, tax crimes and coal diversion being confiscated.
This operation follows on from a raid in September on an illegal coal mine in Mpumalanga, where the South African Police Service (Saps) Illicit Mining Task Force seized R60-million of mining equipment.
Ramaphosa decried the impact of coal smuggling on the lives of South Africans and alluded to the impact of coal diversion as an impediment to the country’s energy generation capacity.
“When I visited the Tutuka power station in Mpumalanga last year, the plant’s management explained to me the significant damage caused to its operations by this inferior coal. The coal is often mixed with other stones and other materials. They explained that the conveyer belts at the power stations repeatedly break down because the stones damage the belts, with the result that spare parts have to be brought at substantial costs. The entry of poor-grade coal into the production processes further affects power station boilers, causing corrosion and other long-term damage,” he added.
Ramaphosa has stressed the need to strengthen institutions such as the Energy Safety and Security Committee and the Tactical Joint Operations Centre to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Due to the operations of the Energy Safety and Security Committee, a total of 234 arrests have been made with the confiscation of R260-million. The President has also commended the Asset Forfeiture Unit for its role in ensuring that individuals implicated in coal smuggling are unable to hide their improper proceeds from the law.
Investigations into Eskom-related corruption led by the Special Investigating Unit are yielding results, he noted. Through litigation, coal supply agreements to the value of R3.7-billion have been declared invalid.
“There will be more arrests. There will be more seizures. The impunity that has allowed many to believe themselves beyond the reach of the law is a thing of the past. To stop the rot at Eskom, mining houses, labour, business and civil society need to work together. The media also needs to continue the work it is doing to uncover criminal acts at Eskom,” said Ramaphosa.