The construction of Medupi is a demonstration that government’s infrastructure plan will change the lives of South Africans in very practical terms, President Jacob Zuma said today, 30 August 2015.
Life is changing for the better, the President said, adding that Medupi will provide the electricity capacity needed to grow the economy, attract investment and create jobs. Zuma was speaking at the official opening of Unit 6 at Lephalale, the coal-rich small border town between South Africa and Botswana.
The town is home to Eskom’s multi-billion rand Medupi Power Station, which is currently under construction, as well as the old Matimba Power Station.
“The operation of Unit 6 is a demonstration that this project is making progress,” he said. “Its impact is already being felt across SA,” Zuma said.
Limpopo Premier Chupu Mathabatha said Lephalale is developing faster than most towns in the country. “We are proud as Limpopo that this construction and development is happening in our lifetime.”
For the people of Lephalale, their relationship with the power plant is is about skills development and creating the much needed jobs. Many workers, who have said the building of the plant has motivated many young people in the area to pursue studies in engineering so they can be employed in the plant.
“The career mind set among many youth in the township have totally changed… many are talking about courses like electrical engineering – which I think is a good sign for the future of the area,” one worker said. Another said the absorption of the youth into initiatives like learnerships was impressive.
But there are concerns that once the construction is done the project won’t be able to absorb many into the labour market and they will instead lose jobs.
Eskom’s acting CEO, Brian Molefe ,said the important thing now is building skills needed in the country like artisans and engineers.
Though there will be job losses in the future, people will be skilled and employable elsewhere. The project, he said, has placed contractual requirements on its contractors to train approximately 3000 skills development candidates in various trades and professions, such as boiler making, coded welding and engineering.
“The objective is to have a large number of skilled people who are employable within the Lephalale municipal area during and after the project has been completed,” he said, adding that this project gives the locals skills for life.
Biggest dry-powered station
Once completed, Medupi will be powered by 6 x 800MW steam-powered turbines to produce a maximum demand of about 4 800MW of power which is about 12% of South Africa’s power generation.
Massive coal-fired boilers will be used to provide steam for the turbines.
The power plant will also be the biggest dry-cooled power station in the world.
Unit 6 was first synchronised to the national grid on 2 March 2015, and has been able to alleviate pressure on the national electricity system, helping to either avoid load-shedding altogether or minimise its severity.
Its synchronisation, according to Eskom, further boosted South Africa’s electricity supply by an extra 800MW – enough electricity to power a city the size of Bloemfontein.
As such, the country has entered its 22 consecutive day without rolling power cuts.
Lephalele is tipped to be South Africa’s first city built after apartheid, has seen a rapid increase in new flats, houses, businesses and shopping complexes, while property sales have also increased since the building of Medupi Power Station a few years ago.
According to the state power utility, Medupi has increased Lephalele town’s Gross Domestic Product by 95% a year.
Job creation at Medupi alone has peaked at over 18 000 direct construction and 2000 supporting services jobs.
Lephalale residents make up 46% of the workforce of which about 70% are unskilled and semi-skilled. About 93% of the total workforce are South Africans.
As part of the legacy programme concerted efforts are also being made to design procurement strategies to benefit the local emerging black suppliers in steel, construction, laundry accommodation and catering, while improvements in the socio economic conditions have also been seen through donations to improve the town’s electricity, sewerage and police facilities, among others.
(Edited by St Francis Chronicle)