CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African Authorities said they carried out raids in five provinces on Thursday to dismantle a coal smuggling syndicate they accused of stealing more than $26 million worth of coal, defacing state-owned power plants and helping to an electricity crisis.
The criminal gang hijacked trucks carrying high-quality coal to power plants, stealing the coal to sell and replacing it with substandard products, the country’s tax and revenue agency said in a statement. Substandard coal has caused crippling damage to the country’s power plants, authorities said.
The South African Revenue Service worked with other law enforcement agencies to conduct search and seizure operations in the provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo. No arrests have yet been made, said national police spokesperson Brigadier General. » said Athlenda Mathe.
Africa’s most advanced economy is in the midst of an energy crisis that has led to planned power outages because its coal-fired power plants do not produce enough electricity for the country’s 62 million inhabitants.
The state-owned electricity company Eskom produces around 95% of South Africa’s electricity.
The power cuts have been widely blamed on years of corruption and mismanagement at Eskom, although authorities have also said suspected organized crime syndicates have been operating around the supply chains of Eskom’s power plants for years. Eskom.
Suspects involved in the syndicate include former Eskom employees, the tax agency said.
Replacing coal for public power plants has worsened the country’s electricity crisis, the agency said.
“Poor quality coal is damaging the infrastructure of Eskom’s power stations, which is a major factor in the power company’s ability to produce electricity for the South African grid,” he said. he declares.
South Africa experienced its worst power outages earlier this year, when homes and businesses were without power for more than eight hours a day. Electricity is generally cut in two-hour increments spread throughout the day. The cuts have eased in recent weeks, but energy sector analysts estimate the cuts will last at least until the end of 2024.
The electricity crisis has hit South Africa’s economy hard, with it expected to grow by less than 1% this year.
This was also politically problematic for the ruling African National Congress, which has been in government since the end of apartheid in 1994 and has been widely held responsible for the problems at Eskom and other public entities.
South Africa holds national elections next year, with the electricity crisis expected to be a key issue for voters.
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Gérald Imray, Associated Press