Eskom workers targeted while corrupt go untouched, says Cosatu

19 February 2019 - 18:06 By Aron hyman
Cosatu leaders address marchers outside parliament on February 19 2019.
Cosatu leaders address marchers outside parliament on February 19 2019.
Image: Aron Hyman

The government has failed to act against those responsible for the electricity crisis and now thousands of workers will lose their jobs.

This was the message of Cosatu's first deputy-president Michael Shingange on Tuesday at a gathering outside parliament in Cape Town.

He said the proposed unbundling of Eskom would result in privatisation and massive job losses in the country’s largest state-owned enterprise.

Police estimated that about 1,500 people from different trade unions gathered to protest about rescue plans for Eskom announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his state of the nation address.

Ramaphosa said that Eskom, the 11th-largest power utility in the world, would be split into three entities. It was reported on Monday that SAA would also be split into three.

Although Eskom employs 48,000 people, the organisation has been a bottomless pit for taxpayer money, with recent reports of alleged corruption relating to Gupta-owned companies getting R1bn consulting contracts.

It was reported that the utility was also bound contractually to pay Optimum, a Gupta-linked coal-mining company, hundreds of millions of rand for coal which was never delivered in 2018.

Shingane said Eskom needed to be saved, but not at the expense of workers. He also raised concerns that privatisation would lead to increased electricity prices.

"To us the unbundling of Eskom is equal to privatisation, it's equal to job dislocation, it’s equal to making electricity unaffordable to our people," said Shingane.

"We do not need a one-size-fits-all resolution, we need a clear plan, a clear diagnosis of what’s gone wrong in Eskom.

"For decades Eskom’s been allowed to be looted, to be run down. Millions of rands have been syphoned out. To date no one has been held accountable, no one has been arrested, no furniture of any corrupt person has been forfeited. But the workers are the ones who are being attacked today."

The protesters handed a memorandum to national assembly deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli. In it, Cosatu raised concern about retrenchments across the public and private sector.

It also said that Eskom’s renewable energy programme and the closure of coal mines needed to be stopped.