NUMSA welcomes High Court decision to end loadshedding in critical sectors

All public hospitals, police stations and public schools must be exempted from loadshedding from 31st of January 2024

NUMSA welcomes the High Court decision to permanently end loadshedding in critical sectors

3 December 2023

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) welcomes the High Court judgment, ordering the Energy minister, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, to take all reasonable steps, to ensure that there is sufficient supply of electricity to prevent loadshedding in critical sectors of the economy. All public hospitals, SAPS police stations as well as all public schools must be exempted from loadshedding from the 31st of January 2024. NUMSA has been vindicated for playing a central role in putting up this fight with other working class formations and political parties. This victory belongs to the working class and the poor of our country.

The court found that load shedding was a violating the basic right to access education, the right to life and healthcare was also threatened because of the impact of rolling blackouts on hospitals, as well as the right of our people to safety because rolling black outs negatively impact on police stations.

Currently, other critical sectors in the economy such as, the engineering, metal, steel, auto sector, smelters, mines and other companies in terms of backwards and forward linkages in terms of upstream and downstream industries, are victims of deliberate economic sabotage caused by rolling blackouts, which have been allowed by government. This government needs to defend the stupid reckless decision taken by the ex-GCEO of Eskom, Andre de Ruyter who clumsily disconnected 17 units from Komati, Hendrina and Grootvlei which is a total loss of 2200MW. What government needs to do, is to simply reconnect those units to the grid. In other words, they must reconnect all the power station units which they disconnected. This would end loadshedding.

NUMSA is aware that the reason they are reluctant to reconnect these units is because of the conditions of the $8.5 billion loan which they accepted and signed from the West without bothering to consult the South African people. France, Germany, United Kingdom, the EU and the U.S. (as part of the International Partners Group), organized the loan to be paid out over five years, to support the fake Just Transition. The terms and conditions of these agreements are extremely nonsensical because they state that once you disconnect the unit, you cannot reconnect it. We also know that one of the other conditions is that South African must close more power stations, which means whilst we are experiencing the current rolling black outs which are sabotaging the economy, we are expected to act extremely stupid and close even more power stations.

As we celebrate our victory from court, we are making a clarion call to the ANC government and President Cyril Ramaphosa to move immediately to reconnect all the units that we disconnected. We must do this in order to stop the current threat to plant closures that will lead to a job loss blood bath. It is stupid to continue to try to impress the West, on the basis that we are not touching coal and closing power stations, when they continue to rely on nuclear, gas and coal, as the baseload. At the same time, our best grades of coal are leaving this country in droves to power their economy, and the response from the West is to offer us loans not to touch coal.

We must learn from Germany which is desperately giving loans to developing countries to recklessly shutdown coal fired power stations, whilst pretending to be shutting down power stations in its own country, when in fact, they are putting them on contingency reserves so that when there’s not enough generating capacity demand, they are able to reconnect these units back to the grid and avoid loadshedding.

This was done without any hesitation and now Germany is set to miss its emissions targets because the German government knew that reliability of supply is sacrosanct. Over the past two days, Germany has been hit by major snowstorms, meaning there is not enough wind and sun to support their grid. During this period, Germany is relying on its coal-fired power stations to ensure that their citizens have reliable electricity supply. This was achieved to the detriment of violating Germany’s Coal Exit Act. This simply means that Germany is hypocritical. They are pledging billions to South Africa to lower carbon emissions but they will do whatever it takes, to ensure their citizens have electricity. Germans will not compromise at all on their ability to consistently power their economy with reliable energy supply. And they have done this even if it undermines their climate change goals to decarbonise.

It is utterly stupid that as a country we are prepared to sacrifice our already fragile and stagnant economy which is not creating jobs, and has been battered by a state that is pursuing austerity measures that cannot stimulate growth. We are sabotaging ourselves in order to satisfy the IMF, the World Bank and ratings agencies who are champions of belt tightening and privatisation. NUMSA says, “enough is enough!” We have never seen a state in any part of the world that is prepared to declare itself as bankrupt, except the current ANC leadership.  Such a state is not serious about its own people and does not take itself seriously enough to lead development.

The rolling blackouts have been caused by an ANC government whose leadership is busy implementing a fake Just Energy Transition. The Renewable energy Independent Power Producers (REIPP’s) are extremely costly, and they are failing to provide a reliable supply of energy to the grid. That is why NUMSA has insisted all these years that as a sovereign country we must allowed, just like America and Europe, to decide without being dictated by anyone, what energy mix is suitable to power the economy and communities. The movement from a reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy must happen at a pace and cost our country can afford.

South Africa is a developing country and not a developed country, therefore in terms of the Paris Accord where all countries committed to a Just transition, all developing countries including South Africa, are allowed to transition at a pace and at a cost that takes into account their own concrete conditions. However, the South African government chose to transition faster than the rest of the world, and this is what is at the centre of this crisis that has engulfed our country today, which has resulted in rolling blackouts. It is absurd that South Africa wants to be seen by the rest of the world to have decarbonised quickly, and they are willing to do it at the expense of the economy. This is ANC government is willing to plunge millions of South African, who are already ravaged by triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality, into an even deeper socio-economic crisis.

South Africa is not listed in annexure I of the convention to adopt measures to mitigate climate change, limit GHG emissions and meet defined emissions targets. In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalises commits industrialised countries and economies in transition to limit, and reduce GHG emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”) itself requires these countries only to adopt policies and measures in mitigation, and to report periodically.

The fundamental question is, “whose class interest is being advanced when President Cyril Ramphosa and Pravin Gordhan, the minister of Public Enterprises, are forcefully subjecting the country to rolling blackouts that are sabotaging the economy, when other countries in the world are allowed to still use coal, nuclear and gas and to determine their own transition as sovereign countries. Who is benefitting from the clumsy ill-informed decisions that are destroying the future of our country and its people? The premature closure of Komati is a clear example of the failure of the fake Just Energy Transition, and how it has worsened the conditions of workers and their families. We must learn lessons from Komati, because failure to do so, mean we are doomed to repeat the same mistake.

NUMSA wants to know, why should South Africa volunteer to transition more quickly than the rest of the developed world? We cannot afford to invest in expensive renewable energy, particularly because it is intermittent energy, which is unable to support industrialization. Ramaphosa and Pravin have signed suicidal treasonous deals with the World Bank which undermines our economic development. There is no other way of looking at this if we are to call a spade a spade – they are openly auctioning our country to and they have sold us out!

For those who are confused, when they close a power station they replace it with privately owned renewable IPP’s, which in essence means they are privatising our energy provision.  What is worse is that they are taking huge loans for the renewable energy IPPs (REIPP’s) which will be paid by the public through the national fiscus. If we were to be blunt, this government has not acted in its own interests now and in the future. Once the private sector has captured the state and its strategic assets it can only use it for maximization of profit. We must forget about a competitive electricity tariff which is critical to drive manufacturing and industrialization, and the overall result is that poor communities will never again be able to access electricity cheaply, as a public good.

The latest court decision means that government has no choice but to take decisive action to ensure they uphold the court order. The state must withdraw from all the deals they signed with the World Bank and other international financial institutions. They must invest in coal and in the maintenance of coal fired power stations. They have to restart all the power stations which have been mothballed. This will end load shedding today.

And finally, they must conduct a proper consultation process with all social partners in the country so as to enable the public to decide on an energy mix which is suitable for us. This must happen without us being dictated to, through sell-out deals that are destroying the economy and its people.

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 4 December 2023