We will defend Eskom in the streets – NUMSA

Union says a SOE completely owned and controlled by state is best guarantee for cheap electricity

We will defend Eskom in the streets

8 February 2019

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is preparing to do battle with the state in defence of our State Owned Enterprises and Eskom in particular. President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening, confirmed our worst fears, which is that the ANC government has decided to privatize SOE’s.

Ramaphosa confirmed that Eskom will be broken up into three parts, Generation, Transmission and Distribution. He also confirmed that ‘non-core assets’ of SOE’s would be sold. This is nothing more than privatization through the back door and we reject it!

It is clear that the working class is in for more suffering because the president is also calling for a tariff increase at Eskom. Last year the same ANC increased general taxes in the form of VAT. This, coupled with increases in the petrol price will worsen the suffering of the working class majority and the poor.

Only an Eskom which is completely owned and controlled by the state is the best guarantee for cheap electricity. History has shown us that once the private sector is allowed to step in, prices increase and massive job shedding is inevitable.  

The ANC and its cronies looted and destroyed Eskom and now they have identified privatization as a convenient way to cover up for more than two decades of rampant mismanagement, looting and corruption. The ANC is punishing workers for its failures. The unbundling of Eskom will result in massive retrenchments and job losses. For the consumer, it will mean that electricity will cost more, and it will be even more inaccessible to the poor and the working class.

We have been calling for a Just Transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. President Ramaphosa and the ANC have perverted that phrase for their own narrow agenda. They took the decision to privatize a national asset, which is owned by the public, without bothering to consult the most important stakeholder, which is Labour and the community at large. The working class is opposed to any privatization plans of our SOE’s, but in particular, Eskom. Secondly the process of a Just Transition is driven by the community and labour, and it is for their benefit. What we are witnessing is an attempt by the ANC to impose its agenda on the community at large because the decision has already been taken. Any consultation which takes place now will merely be a box-ticking exercise. The ANC government has chosen a path which will be most detrimental for the working class and the poor. But the ANC and the Capitalist wealthy elite, whose interests it represents, will continue to enrich themselves, whilst the working class and the poor face higher energy costs, and joblessness.

They are not canceling the Independent Power Producer project which is part of the reason Eskom is collapsing. One hundred thousand jobs will be lost in Mpumalanga because of the closure of coal fired power stations, to make way for IPP’s. There is no Social Plan to upskill workers and absorb them into the IPP sector, after the power stations close. This will deepen unemployment in a country where unemployment is at 37 per cent and growing.

The battle lines have been drawn. The state has officially declared war on the working class. We will mobilize all communities to join us as we defend jobs, and defend Eskom. We will fight for a Socially owned and controlled Renewable Energy program which will benefit the community and the working class. The technology used by renewable energy companies must be owned by the state, and not by foreign Capitalists. Workers in the coal sector will be re-trained and absorbed into the renewable energy sector so that the community of Mpumalanga is not worse off because of the transition. This is the true definition of a Just Transition.  This can only be achieved through the unity of the working class. We will embark on rolling mass action, protests and strikes. We will defend Eskom in the streets and remind this government that real power rests in the hands of the working class!

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 8 February 2019