February 12 2015 at 09:00am
By Marianne Merten
Cape Town – Eskom cannot be allowed to be privatised, not even partially, but the running of the power utility must come under scrutiny of a commission of inquiry, the United Front (UF) said on Wednesday.
Delivering its alternate state of the nation address on the eve of President Jacob Zuma’s speech on Thursday, the front’s Mazibuko Jara said such an inquiry must closely look at the contracts Eskom signed for its coal and the salary packages, including bonuses, paid to its bosses and board members.
“There is a need for an urgent conference of civil society to deal with the energy crisis,” said Jara, adding the drive would be towards a “socially-owned renewable energy sector” as current government policy on independent power producers did not remove the profit motive.
It recently emerged Eskom paid R24.4 million to its three top executives last year, less than eight months after the DA demanded Eskom executives repay the R31m they received in bonuses the year before.
In recent months Eskom repeatedly blamed the poor quality of coal as contributing to the the load-shedding, which it said would be reality for the next two years.
“Eskom’s long-delayed renewable energy strategies can deliver electricity much more quickly and cheaply than supposedly reliable coal,” Jara said. “As with coal, the ANC government’s commitment to fracking (hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the Karoo) is cause for great concern. Stories of environmental devastation from fracking operations continue to emerge from around the world.”
Instead the UF was looking at proposals for “a socially-owned renewable energy sector” as proposed by groups like Earth Africa.
The UF is a coalition of leftist and activist groups and individuals brought together following metalworkers’ union Numsa’s 2013 special congress resolution to co-ordinate grassroots and workplace issues.
The UF yesterday delivered a scathing critique of the government’s failure to deliver on its undertakings to citizens.
Expecting little but “misdiagnosis and tokenistic solutions” from Zuma’s State of the Nation address despite what it called a deepening socio-economic and political crisis, the UF believed “an increasing number of people are recognising the South Africa of today is not the country we deserve and demand”.
Photo: ongoing construction of Eskom’s new build coal-fired power station Medupi.