Opinionista Luphert Chilwane 6 February 2019

Unbundling row: Battle lines for Eskom are being drawn

The unbundling of Eskom is clearly motivated by greed and continued corrupt activities within the power utility.

Splitting power utility Eskom is not a solution to the problems it is experiencing. Eskom’s mandate of producing reliable electricity at an affordable rate will be replaced by an emphasis on productivity at whatever cost.

The unbundling of Eskom, converting it into three companies, is a costly exercise. There will be three boards, three CEOs and three CFOs which are also going to add to the problems. They are still going to consume the same constrained public resources.

Although not clear as yet, there are rumours going around that Eskom chief operating officer John Oberholzer is bragging and telling workers that there will be massive retrenchments at Eskom.

Currently, the real unemployment rate is 38%, with close to 10 million people struggling to get jobs and more than 17 million on welfare.

At the recently-held National Union of Mineworkers national Shop Stewards Council, workers expressed anger towards Eskom. They reiterated NUM’s position that retrenchments at Eskom will never happen in our lifetime.

During the jobs summit in October 2018, the government committed to create 275,000 jobs annually, but there seems to be a serious contradiction here.

The unbundling of Eskom is clearly motivated by greed and continued corrupt activities within the power utility. This move will also weaken the unity of workers because they will be divided.

In 1998-2000 the unity of workers derailed the attempt by the Thabo Mbeki regime to privatise 30% of Eskom power generation to private BEE companies, creating competition in power generation.

The midnight signing of 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in 2018 by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has burdened consumers with unwanted and expensive electricity.

The shop stewards expressed their views, saying they do not want Eskom to always get bailed out, and that they need a permanent solution to the problems. In total, there are 12 power stations in Mpumalanga alone and workers are prepared to down tools, fighting against the splitting of the power utility.

Any posture that seeks to propel the unbundling will be met with militancy and radicalism. DM

Luphert Chilwane is a media officer at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

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