The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has rejected Eskom’s appeal to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to recover its costs in the provision of electricity, calling it “unaffordable, unreasonable and unjustifiable”.
“We have no faith in Eskom. We completely reject Eskom’s tariff hike application,” Cosatu Parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks told public hearings held by Nersa in Cape Town.
He said Eskom had received above-inflation hikes since 2008. “They will come back next year with another story. We are feeding the bailout addictions to a drug addict of some sort.”
Parks said a bailout and the subsequent steep electricity tariff hikes would have a devastating impact on industry, particularly the mining industry, as well as on small, medium-sized and microenterprises and investment. It would also deter overseas investors and impact on inflation.
“The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) watches us as hawks with inflation. This will put the SARB in a corner.”
Parks said workers and consumers, already facing a barrage of rising taxes, such as higher value-added tax and fuel levies, would suffer and have to pay for past corruption in Eskom.
“We don’t know how friends and family of Eskom can loot and then ask workers to bail them out.
“We don't want to see Eskom collapse. If Eskom collapses, the State will collapse tomorrow. But we are very angered by Eskom over the past five to ten years. The former President and former Energy Minister have done a disservice to the nation. We view their conduct as nothing short of treasonous.”
Cosatu is also concerned about feared job cuts at Eskom and a “36% unemployment threat to thousands of coal workers and communities”.
“We live in an economy of 36% unemployment and 1% jobless growth, with massive rising levels of retrenchments. We are very frustrated and deeply concerned with Eskom’s leadership, with threats to close power stations in Mpumalanga.”
Parks said Cosatu had seen Medupi and Kusile costs balloon “from R86-billion to R200-billion with no explanation, no accountability and no apology. If other departments did that, they could never get away with it. Eskom has a gun to our heads as a nation. We treat them with kid gloves.”
Parks has also lamented the major focus on the Northern Cape for renewable energy at the expense of Mpumalanga.
He said coal workers should be reskilled to work on solar farms and solar panel factories in Mpumalanga, a province which boasted the slogan “where the sun rises".
“Why should a coal worker in Witbank move to the Northern Cape?” he asked.
Cosatu has proposed an inflation-based tariff hike that supports economic growth. It has also called for a comprehensive forensic and criminal investigation, with dismissals, arrests, asset seizures and prosecutions.
The labour federation has also called for a reinstatement of an Eskom war room.
Its Eskom turnaround proposals include a commitment to protect Eskom workers jobs and pensions, protect the role of the State as electricity provider and stabilise and reduce ‘dangerously high’ levels of Eskom debt.
Cosatu has also called for a plan to resolve municipal debt and reduce electricity theft.
In the long-term, there should be a ‘massive expansion’ of electricity supply of renewable energy for all homes, buildings and roads and a focus on production of locally made electric cars, taxis and buses.