The deployment of 442 soldiers allocated to Eskom protection duty authorised by Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of the national electricity state of disaster (SOD) are now surplus to requirements.
This was made public today (Wednesday, 5 April) by civil society organisations OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) and Solidarity.
Stefanie Fick, OUTA executive director, said the electricity SOD was withdrawn in response to a legal challenge by the Johannesburg-based organisation.
OUTA was formally notified of the withdrawal in the State Attorney’s written response on Wednesday (5 April) as part of OUTA’s legal action to review and overturn decisions to declare the SOD. “The State Attorney offered to pay OUTA’s wasted court costs in the case,” a statement read. The State Attorney’s letter came while OUTA was waiting for the state’s overdue affidavits.
Centurion-based Solidarity also received a State Attorney letter regarding withdrawal of the electricity SOD and also took credit saying “persistent pressure” and that government “stood no chance of success in court” were behind the lifting.
Soldiers were moved to at least six Eskom sites in December as part of government efforts to cut down on sabotage and theft. The utilisation of soldiers was formally signed off by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise in the Government Gazette on 27 January.
Soldiers reportedly detained 48 suspects in the first weeks of the deployment at the Camden, Duvha, Grootvlei, Kendal, Kriel and Tutuka power stations in Mpumalanga. A further incident, where soldiers responded to an Eskom security call, saw suspected cable thieves apprehended.
At the time of publishing the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) had not reacted to the lifting of the electricity SOD.