NEHAWU condemns Cabinet’s approval of JET Investment Plan

Union says this disregards all principles related to proper, meaningful and deep consultation

NEHAWU condemns Cabinet’s approval of the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan

21 November 2023

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] condemns Cabinet’s approval of the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan [JET-IP]. On 20 November 2023, Cabinet approved the JET-IP despite vociferous objections from a number of key stakeholders in South African society. We have been vehemently rejecting JET-IP since it was introduced to the public at the 2022 COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The current move by the Cabinet disregards all principles related to proper, meaningful and deep consultation, Cabinet’s unilateral decision also contradicts the President’s assertion and electoral mandate of developing binding social compacts.

NEHAWU views JET-IP as fundamentally unjust. In 2022, the so-called International Partnership Group [comprising of Germany, France, the UK and the USA] committed $8.5 billion [R128 billion] in funding to the JET-IP, approximately 81% of these funds are Dollar denominated loans, JET-IP will require another R1.5 trillion in the future. The plan is completely delinked from the very workers and communities that will be affected by this transition. We are already bearing witness to the impact that climate change and the energy crisis are having on our communities. The emergence of ghost towns, the collapse of infrastructure as mines and plants close down. These are all aggravating elements that lead to increases in unemployment, inequality and poverty. From the $8.5 billion JET-IP finance package, the capital is split approximately between Infrastructure (89.4%), Planning and Implementation Capacity [10%], Skills Development [0.15%], Economic Diversification and Innovation [0.25%], and Social Investment and Inclusion [0.2%)]. The minuscule apportionment of funding to skills development, social investment and inclusion is indicative of the facade of justice peddled by the Government. On 17 November 2023, Germany and South Africa signed an additional R10 billion loan to bolster funding for JET-IP.

The national union has characterised JET-IP as nothing but a framework for privatisation, the premise of shutting down our large and centralized coal-fired power stations as a result of the dawn of what the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy calls “… a new era of renewable energy technologies” has been proven to be a hollow claim, even by many stakeholders within the International Partnership Group themselves. South Africa’s de-industrialised economy cannot be developed by relying on renewable energy alone, we have approximately three hundred years of coal reserves beneath our soil and the current impact on our communities and workers in closing coal power stations has been devastating. Whilst NEHAWU supports decarbonisation efforts of our atmosphere, as one method in mitigating the climate crisis, we must also broaden our perspectives of alternate and mixed sources of energy, including nuclear, we must also place principle notions of social, community and worker ownership at the helm of the transition.

Cabinet’s approval of JET-IP is a clear betrayal of the consistent call from some leading global-south countries for the West to pay for the transition to a low carbon global economy, as the West is primarily responsible for the current ecological crisis. Other countries such as India and Brazil have rejected this transitional funding model and insist that they must not be prevented from expanding their industrialisation using the reliable fossil-fuel energy sources. Recently, the National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] called for the halting of JET-IP based on the sentiments the union and NEHAWU have been developing, this plea from NUM has also been simply disregarded. As NEHAWU, we will continue in all our efforts to expose the unjust nature of this plan, to mobilise our members and communities at large to ensure that the transition is transparent and controlled by workers and communities themselves.

Issued by Lwazi Nkolonzi, NEHAWU National Spokesperson, 21 November 2023