Cape Town - The Department of Energy has said that no interdict was granted stopping it from signing 27 independent power producer (IPP) contracts with private sector companies on Tuesday.
Instead, it chose to put the signing on hold following a last-minute court bid by two groups.
Earlier on Tuesday Fin24 reported that the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Transform RSA had managed to obtain a last-minute court interdict to block the signing from proceeding.
The matter was argued in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria at 23:00 on Monday.
New Energy Minister Jeff Radebe was set to sign the 27 independent renewable energy contracts, including power purchase agreements, in Centurion on Tuesday morning.
But in a statement on Tuesday morning the energy department said that while the court had not granted an interdict, the department decided to voluntarily postpone the signing "in the spirit of constitutionalism and the rule of law".
“As a result the signing will proceed on a date to be announced immediately after March 27 2018. The reports in the media that an interdict was granted are therefore not true.”
According to the Department of Energy’s statement, it was only given an hour’s notice on Monday evening when Numsa and Transform RSA approached the court with their joint urgent draft interdict.
The department said that while the interdict was not granted, the matter had been postponed to March 27 for the respondents to file answering affidavits.
And while “nothing prevented” the signing of the contacts in the interim, it has decided to wait until after the next court date.
Eskom earlier referred Fin24 to the Department of Energy for comment.
We got an interdict – Numsa
Earlier Numsa said that it had, in fact, received an urgent interdict from the court.
“The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa together with Transform RSA have obtained an urgent court interdict at the North Gauteng High Court to prevent Eskom from concluding the outstanding renewable energy independent power producer products, including the power purchase agreements,” it said on Tuesday morning.
“The court found that our application meets the standard for urgency and therefore granted us the interdict. Furthermore, the energy minister was forced to give an undertaking in court that he would not sign the IPP agreements on Tuesday until the matter has been given a full hearing by the high court.”
The two groups said that, if the agreements were signed, jobs would be lost in SA's coal mining sector. "The signing of the IPP means that Eskom will require less coal-fired electricity," it said.
Asked by Fin24 later on Tuesday for the union's reaction to the department's argument that there no interdict had been granted, its spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola maintained there was one.
"If there was no interdict, why didn’t they sign today? What stopped them? It’s because we stopped them," she said. "The judge made it clear that if they sign today they will be in contempt of court."
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