‘it’s Political Theatre’: Cosatu Slams Calls To Move Eskom To Energy Department

Amid calls for Eskom to be moved to the department of mineral resources and energy for oversight, Cosatu parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks says it this not solve the power crisis.

Over the weekend, the ANC Women’s League and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) separately voiced views that the power utility should be reconfigured to the energy department.

It currently falls within the portfolio of the department of public enterprises, under the leadership of Pravin Gordhan.

These calls came after news on Friday that Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza resigned. In a letter to the president, his deputy and the public enterprises minister, Mabuza apologises for Eskom not keeping to its commitment to avoid load shedding until January 13. Subsequently the Presidency said a new Eskom board would be appointed.

The political voices chiming in on the latest developments at the power utility include ANC Women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini.

‘It’s about our protection’

“Energy must be consolidated. It’s the department of energy that has the programme and a full strategy that is going to be used over many years to ensure that we have enough electricity in the country. The issue of energy is important to us because it’s about our safety and its about our protection,” Dlamini told News24.

In a 17-page document containing views responding to the crisis at Eskom as well as load shedding, Numsa called for the president to axe Gordhan.

“We have no option but to strongly suggest that Eskom be under the leadership of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Minister Gwede Mantashe, and be shifted away from public enterprises.

“This only on the basis that Minister Mantashe has adopted a democratic approach of advocating a democratic debate about each source of energy, with a vision to create an energy mix which will be suitable for South Africa’s energy needs. Such an energy mix must respect a just transition and at a pace and a cost which South Africa can afford,” said Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim.

‘Political theatre’

But speaking to Fin24 by phone on Monday, Cosatu’s Parks slammed these views by Numsa and the ANC Women’s League as “political theatre”. Parks said that the debate being stirred by the parties was for “factional battles”.

“It’s all about getting rid of Pravin Gordhan and weakening the Cyril [Ramaphosa] faction.”

Numsa left Cosatu in 2014 and joined the South African Federation of Trade Unions. The federation has been outspoken about its criticism of Ramaphosa.

“Moving from one department to another department is not going to solve the energy crisis,” said Parks.

Following the national elections in 2019, Cosatu made proposals to Ramaphosa to reconfigure Cabinet to eliminate fragmentation and duplication of functions. This included closing down the public enterprises department and having the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in its portfolio – Eskom, SAA and SA Express, among others – report to relevant departments such as energy and transport.

“We accepted the president’s motivation that for the time being, the SOEs that are in ICU need to [become] stable. That is the priority,” Parks said.

He added that there may be existing overlaps in departments and ministers may have to work across lines. For example, when Treasury offers a state-owned enterprise a bailout, then the relevant minister has to work with the finance minister to provide feedback on specific issues to provide feedback regularly on the conditions imposed on the bailout.