Numsa statement on Eskom’s loadshedding

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in KwaZulu-Natal is highly perturbed by the recent Eskom crises, including the ongoing wave of load shedding hitting our country.
Ordinary people are adversely affected, and there may well be disastrous consequences for jobs, livelihoods and our sinking economy.
Another potential victim is the prospect of revitalising our parastatals. A repeated lie is being told by ESKOM’s executives and neoliberal commentators, as well as by senior politicians in government: providing adequate electricity is beyond ESKOM’s capacity, leading to advocacy of privatisation.
We are already reeling from the extremely high prices imposed by Eskom on consumers over the last seven years, and from other neoliberal policies that characterised the 1996 Growth Employment and Redistributive Strategy (GEAR) and now the National Development Plan (NDP).
The mistakes made repeatedly by the fading African National Congress (ANC), including the squandering of public money on the Arms Deal, came at the expense of retooling ESKOM in order to meets its goal of electrifying the country but in an affordable manner. The ANC’s role in the Medupi power plant fiasco, through its Chancellor House role in the Hitachi supply of flawed boilers, needs investigation and penalisation.
It is now obvious to all that the parastatal’s reliance upon coal is not only contributing to climate change more than any other institution in Africa. But it is a far less secure energy source than is claimed. It is tragic that Eskom wasted the post-apartheid era by failing to implement the kinds of labour-centric, community-controlled, municipal-empowering renewable energy projects Numsa has been championing.
The continued power cuts have also reaffirmed our consistent calls for strategic nationalisation of the coal, in order to build the required and necessary capacity for State to supply cheaper electricity to ESKOM and the national grid. The fetish in the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission is to build a high-volume new rail line from the Waterberg to Richards Bay to increase exports. Yet coal prices have sunk nearly 50% this year and the Chinese are shrinking their coal imports.
This mistaken priority led to Transnet borrowing more than R50 billion from the Chinese in 2013, and then this year ordering R50 billion in locomotives via Chinese firms. Numsa again insists that this instance of misguided management of our country’s coal reserves, with such a large foreign debt obligation, be investigated. It makes no sense, like so many aspects of our energy politics.
One of the negative consequences of this load shedding, especially for the workers, is that industries heavily reliant on electricity for production, are already contemplating cutting down the cost of production through retrenchments and lay-offs. This will be a direct assault on the workers, amidst the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality faced by the working class and the poor.
Furthermore, the hardest-hit section in society by this load-shedding is the working class and the poor, who are switching from electricity to dirty household energy such as wood, coal and paraffin – whilst the rich and middle-class in their comfort are only beginning to feel the pinch.
We call on government to take responsibility for the crisis, since their misguided decisions are haunting us now, and fix the crisis at ESKOM. The working class cannot afford to be permanently in load-shedding! As the United Front emerges in many parts of South Africa, we anticipate combining our concerns as workers with those of consumers, environmentalists and especially women who are the main victims of our collapsing electricity system insofar as they reproduce life in our households.
Mbuso Ngubane
KwaZulu-Natal Regional Secretary
Mobile: 079 502 3242
Tel (dir) 031 301` 0283