SAFTU outraged by failure to end loadshedding

On Friday, one day after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that “the worst is behind us,” we were hit with stage 6 load shedding.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is outraged that Eskom management and government are failing to end load-shedding, despite President Cyril Ramaphosa saying they are “stabilising the energy supply”.

Despite plans and efforts to end loadshedding, President Ramaphosa and the National Energy Crisis Committee have brought more loadshedding. The Secretary General of the ANC, Fikile Mbalula, opined that the recent load-shedding spike was sabotage. We reject this as scapegoating. Frightened by the probable loss in the upcoming national general elections, they are excusing their failure to resolve load-shedding after 17 years and the bungling of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) by invoking thumb-sucked sabotage claims.

The ruling party is panicking and knows that they might lose the elections. Therefore, they are finding ways to rationalise their poor management of Eskom. In December 2023, a mouthpiece of Big Business, Bloomberg News, argued that load-shedding resulted from “old and poorly maintained power stations” at Eskom.

This is a repeated mantra among liberal economists. This argument does not surprise us. However, it is meant to cajole the government and society to accept that Eskom is “old” and must be dismantled to make way for the private sector.

In this context, it is also arguable, as some of the workers at Eskom have argued, that load-shedding is engineered to create a conducive condition for the dismantling of Eskom’s monopoly and the eventual privatisation of energy provision. This includes Eskom management and the government neglecting the maintenance of the existing coal fleet.

Loadshedding has multiple effects that include inconveniencing households and sabotaging the economy. Residents in townships and villages have reported that besides the inconvenience of cooking and heating, they experience a spike in crime during load-shedding hours. This includes burglary and theft in their residential and non-residential houses.

The cost of loadshedding to the economy has been quantified to R45 billion between 2007 and 2019. Between 2020 and Quarter 1 of 2023, costs were estimated at R225 billion. Since 2023 has seen the most hours of loadshedding on record to date, it is arguable that costs in value to the economy were also higher than in any previous year. The concrete and tangible impact of loadshedding on the economy is also witnessed through retrenchments.

Companies absorb the increased production costs arising from fuel procurement by laying off workers or reducing their working hours. So, the failure of government and Eskom management to solve this crisis is costly to the working people and their households. Statement issued on behalf of SAFTU by the General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

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