(Refiles to fix first paragraph)
* Workers damaged property at Medupi in Wednesday strike
* Power plant has been delayed by labour disputes
By Peroshni Govender and Wendell Roelf
JOHANNESBURG, March 26 South Africa's Eskom
said striking workers had destroyed property at the
Medupi power plant it is building and the state-owned utility
closed the site on Thursday to assess the damage.
Labour disruption and technical faults have increased costs
at the long-delayed Medupi coal plant, expected to start
generating 800 megawatts of extra electricity by July. It would
become South Africa's first new power station to come online in
20 years and help to address a chronic supply shortage.
About 21,000 contract workers went on a one-day strike on
Wednesday over poor living conditions and seeking higher pay.
"During the strike, some of our buildings and vehicles were
damaged. We have closed the site in order to determine the
extent of the damage," Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe told
"Any day of delays will unfortunately result in bigger
delays and if the action continues beyond tomorrow, we will have
a problem," Phasiwe said.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said it
was prepared to go to court to compel Eskom to allow the
locked-out workers to return to work so that they could earn
Eskom is facing a leadership crisis after four of its most
senior executives were suspended, including the chief executive.
Sources say the company's chairman Zola Tsotsi could face a
vote of no confidence.
Medupi, in central South Africa, and its sister coal-fired
plant Kusile are seen as vital to Eskom in providing 10,000
megawatts of new power by 2020 as the troubled firm tries to
reverse the worst power outages afflicting Africa's most
advanced economy since 2008.
Eskom said it would cut power for the second consecutive day
on Thursday due to supply shortages.
The utility has implemented controlled power cuts in
Africa's most advanced economy this year to prevent the national
grid from being overwhelmed. South Africa's government says the
electricity outages are expected to last two years.
Standard and Poor's cut Eskom's credit status to junk last
Thursday, saying the suspension of executives had caused a loss
of confidence in the company's corporate governance.
(Editing by James Macharia and Keith Weir)