JOHANNESBURG, February 21 – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Thursday called for minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan to be dismissed immediately for his alleged role in the cost overruns at struggling power utility Eskom.
Last week, Gordhan said the two new multi-billion rand coal-fired power plants Medupi and Kusile were “badly designed and badly constructed”.
The power plants were supposed to add almost 9,600 megawatts to the grid and be fully operational in 2015, but they are still far from completion. As a results, their projected cost overruns have more than doubled to R292.5 billion.
The union, which has also been very critical of the independent power producers (IPP) programme, said Gordhan was part of the leadership who present themselves as fighting hard to undo the crisis faced by Eskom but are responsible for the open looting of South Africa’s state-owned companies.
“Numsa rejects Pravin Gordhan’s assertion that Enel will be resolving the load shedding crisis when we know that Enel is a beneficiary of the IPP project,” Numsa said.
Enel, one of the world’s leading energy suppliers, has been appointed by government to provide Eskom with external technical assistance and will be sending its expert engineers to conduct a full operations audit of all Eskom power stations to ascertain the most serious problems.
Numsa said the crisis at Eskom was a self-generated crisis caused by IPPs, inflated coal costs, a bloated top executive structure, tender corruption and cost overruns at Medupi and Kusile power stations.
The union said it opposed the “unbundling” of the power utility as it offered no solution to the crisis and would do nothing to close the holes.
“This unbundling, the effects of it are far more detrimental than what is anticipated. The effects include retrenchments, closure of businesses, creation of ghost towns especially in Mpumalanga and tariff hikes far higher than what one can afford on the Poverty National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour,” it said.
“This is why Numsa rejects the so called unbundling of Eskom. Our SOE cannot be given to private individuals to make money out of this key national asset, because as a country we need a sustainable and affordable electricity tariff in order to champion manufacturing and industrialisation, and above all, to electrify our communities.”
Finance minister Tito Mboweni announced on Wednesday that government would not be taking over Eskom’s bloated debt of R421 billion, but rather it would allocate R23 billion a year for the next three years to support Eskom’s reconfiguration as it is being unbundled into three units. (ANA)