As Eskom teeters on the edge of collapse, thousands of workers building two new coal-fired power stations to alleviate the crisis are tucking into R1.4-billion worth of free meals.
Two five-year contracts awarded to provide meals at Medupi in Limpopo and Kusile in Mpumalanga rank among the biggest catering contracts in South Africa.
Free meals served in huge dining areas on site include beef, chicken, mutton or vegetarian dishes; pap, rice, samp and beans; vegetables; fruit; full-cream milk; and fruit juice.
Boardroom areas are supplied with normal and decaf coffee, tea, rooibos, milk and sugar. Executives are entitled to special catering arrangements.
The power stations, far behind schedule and way over budget, will add 9600megawatts to the national grid once they are fully operational – possibly by late 2018 and 2019.
Although the grid remained stable this week, Eskom warned customers that rotational power cuts would resume once businesses reopened after the festive season because demand for electricity would outstrip supply.
Provision of hot meals is a condition of service for workers on the construction sites at Medupi and Kusile and follows protests over the cold meals that had been provided before.
Eskom also provides breakfast and dinner for workers who stay on site because their homes are too far away to commute.
The hot meals are among several perks that prompted the Financial Mail to ask in August last year: “Medupi workforce: the most pampered ever?”
Eskom has confirmed that the five-year Medupi catering contract, which runs until next month, was worth R787-million. The contract was awarded to Lephalale Site Services, a joint venture whose main contractors are Fedics Site Services and the Moon Cloud Joint Venture.
A new catering contract – likely to push catering costs closer to R2-billion – kicks in early next year.
At Kusile, a five-year catering contract worth R639-million was awarded to the company RoyalMnandi Duduza on October 1 2013, Eskom said.
“The contract value was informed by the projected meal numbers available at that time,” said the parastatal.
RoyalMnandi has served up to 16000 meals a day at Kusile.
The company is part of the Bidvest group, of which ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s wife, Nolwandle Mantashe, is a director.
Details of her directorship emerged this week after The Times revealed on Wednesday that Nolwandle was CEO of Tamorah Resources, a new company hoping to secure contracts to supply coal to Eskom.
She said she had no interest in using political influence to secure business from Eskom.
“I do not rely on political connections to do business but on capable black and white people,” Nolwandle said.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa issued a statement last week asking whether any politicians or friends of the ruling party were benefiting from the electricity crisis.
Breakfast served at Medupi, according to tender documents, consists of cereal, mealiemeal, eggs, gravy, sliced bread, jam, peanut butter, milk, juice, tea and coffee.
But not all the workers are happy with their free meals. Numsa’s head of collective bargaining, Steven Nhlapo, said this week that the union wanted workers to have a choice of what to eat for lunch, instead of everyone having to eat a chicken dish one day and beef, for example, the next.
Eskom initially pegged the cost of building Medupi at R69-billion and of Kusile at R80-billion, but the projected costs have rocketed to an estimated R154-billion and R172-billion respectively. – André Jurgens/TimesLIVE