Work Stoppage at Ingula

Dear Colleagues

The first article states the obvious – the hugely damaging effect of Eskom’s under-capacity on our economy, plus the all too real allusions to the possibility of another blackout season lying ahead of us for pretty much the same reasons. And our hope of salvation lies with three major development undertakings: Medupi, Kusile and Ingula.

Now take a look at the second article.

Yes, the accident at Ingula in which 6 workers lost their lives was certainly a tragedy and we do need to know what caused it and to prevent a repetition. But was it really necessary for everyone to down tools for a full month (28 days) at all portions of the site? And work on the pressure tunnel is still closed pending investigations. How much investigation does it take to figure out that (say) the anchoring failed? When a motor accident occurs that snuffs out scores of lives, do the investigators leave the wrecked bus blocking the road for more than a month? (And 40 or so of our citizens are tragically killed on our roads every day – that’s more than 6 times as many as were killed in this accident. You can double that if you add homicides.)

Excessive concern on the part of Eskom about resuming work on the tunnel is understandable. But how do we explain the stoppage of all work on the entire site for a month? (Two dams, the machine room, the lot.) Even more puzzling is the stoppage of work at all of Eskom’s other construction sites (albeit for a shorter period), presumably including the beleaguered Medupi and Kusile sites that together represent 9600 MW of desperately needed base load power. (Its not as if anyone is busy building steeply inclined high pressure tunnels at either of these sites?)

Consider the human cost of the delay. Money cannot define the real value of a human life, but it does represent the honest labour of a life time of work and as such also defines the quality of life of an entire family. (Poverty also shortens lives by a decade or two.) Millions of our desperately poor would be ecstatic at the prospect of earning R30000 per year. That adds up to R1.5 million over a 50-year working life. So in a very real sense the R50 billion loss to the economy of the last bout of blackouts represents 33 333 working lives. Consider also that our economic growth is already constrained by a lack of electricity, so job losses and lives are already being degraded. Has this cost been weighed against the benefit of the protracted investigation and the incomprehensible shutdown of unrelated construction work?

Best Regards

Chris Herold

Article 1

Article 2

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