Leadership of the South African Communist Party met over the weekend for the first time this year, discussing Eskom, the economy, nation building and the imperialist centres gung-ho for regime change. They saved their best for the EFF. By GREG NICOLSON.
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has been relatively quiet on the country’s energy crisis, but the SACP says it had a “productive engagement” with her on South Africa’s energy challenges. “The process led by Cabinet’s ‘war room’ has underlined and uncovered many weaknesses within Eskom. It is a national asset that now requires tough love,” said a party statement on Sunday after consultations with the minister. At senior-level, said the SACP, Eskom has “many weaknesses and even complacency”.
The Communist Party briefed media on Sunday after a meeting of its Central Committee (CC) in Johannesburg. In its first meeting of the year, senior leaders touched on issues of energy, the economy, nation building, and of course, the chaos in Parliament during the State of the Nation Address (SONA).
After three days of discussion, the party said, “Eskom remains a key strategic national asset. Its role going forward in terms of ensuring the great majority of our energy requirements both in terms of generation and transmission must be defended.” It slated the prices set for Eskom’s procurement of coal and diesel, on which Eskom is spending huge amounts to keep the power stations going. “There are many indications that Eskom has been treated as a milk-cow by private sector rent-seekers,” claimed the SACP.
The party supported the ANC’s decision to scrap the Independent System and Market Operator Bill, which would have formed another state entity to buy power and control the transmission grid with the aim of generating more competition in electricity production. The SACP said such a move would be “fragmenting the integrity of our core energy system in the name of ‘competition’”.
Instead, the SACP said there needs to be a proactive approach to energy supply and pricing, putting national interests above profit. “While supporting the development of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), particularly in the renewables space, the CC calls for much greater rigour in ensuring that pricing contracts with IPPs do not… lock us into excessively high prices over a prolonged period.” The party also expressed concern that the provision of solar water heaters being delivered to poor households could fail to benefit local businesses as intended if the government relaxes the standards in an effort to reduce red tape.
Last week, Eskom announced that the first of six units at the Medupi power station has begun producing power, but supply remains constrained. On Friday Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown told Parliament the semi-privatisation of Eskom has not been considered.
On Sunday, Deputy Public Works Minister and SACP Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin put Eskom’s troubles down to management and a failure of past policies. “We need to also recognise that part of the problem came with ill-advice to attempt to privatise Eskom. There was an attempt to privatise Eskom but no private players wanted to come in and supply electricity at the price that Eskom was supplying. At that time there was also a failure to address maintenance issues and there was loss of skills,” Cronin said.
The SACP CC also used the occasion to warn of the EFF. After the party was forcefully evicted from Parliament, Cronin wrote an article comparing the EFF to the Nazi party’s antics in the German parliament in the late 1920s. “Let’s not be overly pessimistic. I am not saying the anarchistic behaviour of the EFF in (and out of) Parliament is an indication that within five years South Africa will also be under a fascist dictatorship. But let’s also not be complacent,” wrote Cronin, reflecting the attitude within the alliance.
On Sunday, the SACP said, “Here in South Africa, thanks, in part, to our sustained, overwhelming electoral support, we are not confronting any remotely serious regime-change agenda. But let’s also keep a careful watch over any early signs of such an agenda through corrective and self-corrective measures. The demagogic leaders of the proto-fascist EFF openly and recklessly boast of their intention to overthrow the current government ‘by whatever means’,” said the CC, using an apparent reference to Julius Malema’s SONA reply where he said the party would remove Zuma and govern “by whatever revolutionary means”.
The SACP said seemed to advise acknowledgement of the issue without over-reacting. “In the face of deliberately provocative anarchistic behaviour in Parliament and out on the streets of our towns and communities, it is important that the ANC-alliance and government counter firmly, without over-reacting, without closing down democratic space and, above all, as defenders of our hard-won democratic constitution and rights. To deal with destabilising hooliganism in our local communities it is critical that we consolidate our own grass-roots, branch-level formations, and that they become more pro-active in defending communities, in giving voice to legitimate challenges, and dealing with many social disorders.”
The alliance partner was quiet, however, on the increase in state security action to deal with perceived opponents of the government. DM
Photo: Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande holds a news conference after meeting with Education Alliance organisations to discuss post-school education and training at the University of Johannesburg, Friday, 16 January 2015. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA