‘Set up inquiry into how Eskom is run’

IOL Business Report

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”.

Political Bureau

Photo: ongoing construction of Eskom’s new build coal-fired power station Medupi.


UF slams ‘state of nonsense’


February 12 2015 at 10:38am
By Marianne Merten

Johannesburg –

Little but a “state of nonsense” was expected when President Jacob Zuma later on Thursday delivers his State of the Nation Address in Parliament, the United Front (UF) said on Wednesday.

“The official SONA (State of the Nation Address) and the opening of Parliament have become a naked display of power and unashamed greed of the elite.

“Sadly, far from being humble servants of the people, all our politicians have become the new self-serving Wabenzi,” said front national secretary Mazibuko Jara, delivering an alternative state of the nation.

The UF was scathing about the lack of progress made and cautioned about a good story being told through “misdiagnosis and tokenistic solutions”.

Jara said while there were many progressive laws and policies, these had not reduced South Africa’s levels of inequality.

And frequently, the government failed to adhere to legal stipulations: the alternative mining indaba in Cape Town has heard from communities near mining activity who were not consulted, as required, before licences were awarded.

In agriculture, 80 percent of food in South Africa was produced by just 20 percent of the current 35 000 commercial farmers, and while the country was a food net exporter in most years, half of South Africa’s population did not have consistent access to nutritious food, according a recent Oxfam report on inequality.

Meanwhile, the Global Financial Integrity report showed R300 billion in profits left South Africa in illicit capital transfers as particularly mining companies appeared not to declare profits for tax reasons, Jara added.

The alternative State of the Nation was styled as a call of action – and on Budget day in two weeks’ time, the UF wants a demonstration outside Parliament to demand the proper financing of Eskom to end load shedding, a socially owned renewable energy sector to give communities a say, and the end to night soil buckets by December.

Karl Cloete, metalworkers’ union Numsa’s deputy general secretary, who spoke in support of the UF, said the union was intrigued that 2015 had been declared by the ANC, and the government, as the year to reclaim the Freedom Charter.

“If you need to reclaim something, you must have lost it somewhere.”

The Star

Numsa, UF urge state to make Eskom implement renewable power



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.