No change at power station despite profit

ALTHOUGH Port Elizabeth-based mining magnate Kobus Smit has profited handsomely from the city’s disused Swartkops power station, he has failed to redevelop it as he promised a decade ago, Kabuso report annexures reveal.

Not only did Smit’s company, Ruco, land the R2.3- million tender to decommission the station in 1998 and make a further R3-million from selling its contents, according to investigators – although top businessmen who knew Smit have claimed the profit was closer to R30-million – but Ruco was also able to purchase the disused building for just R2.5-million two years later.

But although a stipulation of the sale was that the station be converted into a "multi-dimensional commercial and industrial complex that will provide value to the city of Port Elizabeth”, it stands derelict.

According to plans included in the annexures, the station was to be converted by:

  • Limiting the coal- handling facilities to minimise dust pollution and enhance the building’s aesthetics;
  • Creating fish farming "and related activities” on 45700m², through converting the pump station facilities;
  • Creating warehousing and storage facilities for heavy industry; and
  • Rehabilitating portions of the nearby salt marsh and low-lying areas.

No evidence haq been found that the municipality monitored the redevelopment, investigators said. They also noted that the Environmental Affairs Department in 2008 issued a positive decision for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the establishment of an oyster nursery at the building, which lapsed in July this year.

However, Smit said Ruco had been approached "by various representatives of the [municipality] with a request that it consider the erection of a desalinisation plant on a portion of the Swartkops property”.

Although Ruco planned for the desalination plant, Smit said there had been no further word from the municipality on the issue.

"Until such time as a decision has been taken by the [municipality], Ruco is unable to undertake any development at the Swartkops power station,” he said.