Q&A with general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA Irvin Jim

The general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Irvin Jim, says the union will take to the streets in response to the unbundling of Eskom. Chris Barron asked him...

10 February 2019 - 00:00 By CHRIS BARRON

How is taking to the streets going to save Eskom?
The situation we're in, we've got our backs against the wall.
Isn't Eskom's back also against the wall?
No, the crisis we have at Eskom is a self-generated crisis .
How is taking to the streets going to save it?
No, you must let me speak otherwise we can't go on. The crisis we have at Eskom is self-created. The purpose is to privatise Eskom. If there was no agenda to privatise Eskom, Eskom would have been a performing company. Eskom's problem is the result of the connection of the [independent power producers, or IPPs] since 2016. It is because of bloated executives, because of the corruption that took place in Medupi and Kusile, and because of the price of primary coal .
Eskom owes R420bn, which it can't afford to service. How will you save jobs if it defaults?
There are no jobs that are going to be saved by breaking up Eskom. This is not about the future of Eskom, it's about preparing Eskom for privatisation.
What will happen to jobs if Eskom defaults?
If anybody was keen to sort out Eskom the first steps that would be taken would be to take IPPs out of the national grid. Eskom's sales will go up. As we speak, Eskom's sales are being destroyed by the IPPs. Unbundling Eskom is not going to address the fact that Eskom's sales are dropping and being destroyed by the IPPs. So how is breaking up Eskom going to sort out the crisis of Eskom?
What is going to happen to jobs when Eskom hits the wall?
It is not the fault of us or of workers at Eskom that we're suddenly given a GCE [group CEO] that has no clue how to run Eskom. It is not our fault that we're given a board of IPPs. All they're doing is running Eskom down because there's an agenda to introduce IPPs at all costs.
Won't this make the energy sector more competitive?
No, I don't want to deal with your ideological outlook, you're insulting me.
You haven't told me how taking to the streets is going to save Eskom.
Taking to the streets is going to stop Cyril Ramaphosa from breaking up Eskom and privatising Eskom so they can hand over its role to the IPPs.
If he gives in to you and reverses the decision to unbundle, what effect do you think it will have on the investment community?
So you're telling me he's doing all of this because the IMF and World Bank have taken the decision that energy in this country must be privatised?
Aren't the unbundled entities going to remain in Eskom, and state-controlled?
No, we're being fooled here. This is the first preparation phase of privatisation. If we're complaining now that the electricity tariff is uncompetitive and unaffordable, wait until they privatise. There will be no electricity that is affordable.
Are investors necessary, or do you think Eskom can survive without them?
Eskom can survive with absolutely no privatisation. If you take IPPs out of the grid, Eskom's balance sheet will immediately be improved.

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