BY PAUL VECCHIATTO, 11 FEBRUARY 2015, 16:42
THE National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and its ally, the United Front (UF), have called on the government to make Eskom urgently implement sustainable and renewable power generation.
Speaking at an alternative state of the nation address on Wednesday, UF interim national secretary Mazibuko Jara said: “The irony is that Eskom’s long-delayed renewable energy strategies can deliver electricity much more quickly and cheaply than supposedly reliable coal, whose generators gum up with filth and require longer maintenance downtime; whose coal dust becomes wet like soup during the more intense rains associated with climate change; and whose silos crack.”
Numsa was expelled from its parent organisation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), in November following its decision not to support the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is a close ally of Cosatu, in the May national elections.
The UF was formed, with Numsa as its major partner, in December with the aim of building a left-wing movement. The alliance aims to officially launch in June.
The alternative state of the nation address was among the first public analysis and policy documents delivered by the Numsa and UF that begin to articulate the new movement’s policy positions.
President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to deliver his state of the nation address on Thursday evening.
Mr Jara said what was clear to the UF was that during the past 20 years little had changed in the electricity industry aside from a paltry amount of electricity going to 50% of households previously denied connections by the apartheid government.
He claimed that capital-intensive multinational corporations and rich individuals were consuming too much electricity while poor people were consuming too little.
“The repeated claim by President Jacob Zuma and ANC leader Gwede Mantashe that the reason for load-shedding is the generosity of the ANC government in providing electricity connections to poor black people after apartheid ended defies logic,” Mr Jara said.
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said that his union and the UF were opposed to the government’s policy of using independent power producers.
“Rather we want government to make Eskom implement these renewable power strategies,” he said.
The UF attacked the government’s commitment to shale gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) saying that it was cause for “great concern” as stories of environmental devastation by fracking continue to emerge from around the world.
“The intense use of scarce water resources represents an environmental and social disaster. The enthusiasm for fracking in SA has more to do with possibilities for enrichment under the guise of black economic empowerment, once again at the expense of our natural environment and water resources, which are already under strain,” Mr Jara said.