Greenpeace Satisfied by Eskom Action Over Spying Allegations

Greenpeace said it’s “satisfied” with steps taken by South Africa’s Eskom Holdings Ltd. after a security company hired by the state-owned power company spied on environmental groups.

“Eskom has taken the matter seriously and investigated it fully, has publicly apologized to the organizations involved,” Melita Steele, an energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, said in an e-mailed response to questions today. “Greenpeace is concerned that the organizations were actually infiltrated, and that this information was gathered in the first place.”

Security management at Eskom’s Medupi power plant construction site had entered into a contract with Swartberg, an intelligence support services company, “to ensure protection of the site and to better anticipate threats to personnel and property following civil unrest,” the Johannesburg-based company, said in a statement yesterday. Eskom supplies most of South Africa’s power.

Eskom suspended construction of Medupi, set to be the world’s fourth-largest coal-fired power plant, for a week following a violent protest by about 500 of 9,000 workers in May 2011.

The utility apologized to groundWork, Earthlife Africa and Greenpeace, and disclosed the results of its investigation of Swartberg, Eskom said.

“There was infiltration of the three environmental organizations, and this was combined with intelligence gathering, sometimes of information of a personal nature,” Steele said. “This infiltration largely involved attending meetings/trainings with the organizations, although some personal interviews also happened. What is clear is that Swartberg did exceed their mandate.”

There was concern about the way in which the contract was managed and the risks for Eskom in contracting such services, the utility said.

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