Unbundling. Restructuring. Whatever. As long as Eskom isn’t privatised: Cosatu

South African Communist Party (SACP) second deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila during a media briefing. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla
South African Communist Party (SACP) second deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila during a media briefing. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

The ANC’s alliance partners have set up a task team to look into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to unbundle Eskom.

This was announced by the South African Communist Party’s second deputy general secretary, Solly Mapaila, who was among the many alliances partners’ officials – made up of the SACP, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) who protested against the plan on Wednesday.

Speaking to City Press, Mapaila said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement during last week’s state of the nation address that the ruling party was planning to unbundle Eskom “did not necessarily mean that the power utility was being privatised”.

“There have been guarantees from the president himself that there won’t be any privatisation of Eskom and we will hold him accountable to that as the leadership of the alliance partners.

“The president called it unbundling. We call it restructuring. We agree that there must be an operational model that attracts investment. At the moment there are no investors who will invest money into an entity that requests bailouts from the state year in year out.

“We will, however, look into this particular process. The alliance partners have set up a task team to look in to that particular aspect of the suggested unbundling model so that we can debate on it, but we maintain that whatever happens in this particular process, it must be based on the premise that Eskom will remain in the hands of the state and that there will be no job losses. We have articulated this several times,” said Mapaila.

He said the task team was made up of economists who would look in to the nitty-gritty of the proposed unbundling of the power utility.

“We want them to investigate what each section will entail, what type of operating model it will be employing and, in particular, the three divisions suggested by the president.

“We also want the task team to look into the issue of Eskom’s bloated management which has grown from 200 to more than 600 executives,” said Mapaila.

There has been a lot of scepticism that Ramaphosa might privatise Eskom and, in the process, benefit directly or indirectly from the company’s privatisation.

During the state of the nation debate on Tuesday, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema told Ramaphosa that his party did not support the privatisation of Eskom and was also apprehensive over the newly discovered oil reserves, calling on them to be nationalised.

Total South Africa recently announced the discovery, 175km off the southern coast of South Africa. It has been hailed as a “game changer” by Ramaphosa.

On Tuesday, the ANC’s own secretary-general, Ace Magashule, caused more confusion on the Eskom matter during his address at the 107th birthday celebration of Rebecca Kotane, wife of former SACP general secretary and former treasurer-general Moses Kotane.

Magashule seemed to suggest that a resolution was reached on the Eskom matter during the party’s lekgotla, however the President went on to mislead the public during is state of the nation address when he said: “We agreed at our lekgotla that there will never be privatisation of Eskom. We should not say things in the boardrooms and say different things in public”.

Magashule added that “leaders come and go. The ANC remains.”

Mapaila, however, said there was no contradictions when it came to the Eskom matter, there was only a plan to unbundle the entity and never to privatise it.

He was speaking from the protest on Wednesday where the union’s members marched against what they called “mass retrenchments” particularly in the mining sector and “the rise in capitalism under Ramaphosa’s presidency”.

They congregated at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown and march to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to hand over a memoranda to the Premier David Makhura in which they outlined all their grievances.

Cosatu national president Zingiswa Losi led the march in Durban and clarified that the trade union was particular unhappy with “the levels of retrenchments taking place particularly in the private sector” as well as unsafe working conditions.

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