NUMSA slams entire Eskom board as “incompetent” amid ructions

(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)
(Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said in a statement released on Sunday that while it welcomed Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza's resignation, the troubled utility remained a hostage to the "arrogance" of Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and the Eskom board.

Mabuza's resignation came on Friday afternoon, the same day that President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that he was looking to make changes to the Eskom board.

Mabuza resigned, citing Eskom’s failure to avoid loadshedding until 13 January, as Eskom management promised the president late last year.

The statement from NUMSA said Gordhan appeared to move from one state-owned entity crisis to another but appears unable to provide the necessary required leadership to fix parastatals.

"NUMSA wants to be on record that enough is enough. We reject the poor and incompetent leadership which Pravin Gordhan has provided over Eskom and the rest of the SOE's which has delivered costly loadshedding to Eskom but to the rest of the economy," the statement said.

The statement said other members of the Eskom board were also responsible for the perilous state of the utility.

"Our honest view is that the entire incompetent Eskom board must go including the COO, Jan Oberholser who has added absolutely no value except adding to the wage bill," the statement said.

The union even placed blame at the feet of former energy minister, Jeff Radebe, saying he signed 27 Independent Power Producer deals costing Eskom R300bn over a 20-year period against the advice of the unions who said this would worsen the decline in Eskom's sales.

"It is the Eskom Board, Management and the Ministers starting with Minister Jeff Radebe and Pravin are responsible for the mess that Eskom finds itself in as they refuse to deal with straight forward solutions that NUMSA has advanced," the statement said.

The union said it has repeatedly called on Gordhan and the Eskom board to come to grips with the continuing escalation in the cost of primary coal as well as the ballooning costs of completing Medupi and Kusile coal power stations.

The union also slammed the utility's insistence on blaming poor maintenance for playing a role in recent loadshedding as disingenuous, saying maintenance was not a new challenge and that Ramaphosa led the war room on Eskom while he was deputy president.

"The Eskom board and Eskom management, under the supervision of Minister Pravin Gordhan, brought back the expensive and destructive loadshedding to the economy.  As early as 2014 the issue of plant maintenance had already been tabled and is nothing new," the statement said.

The union called on Ramaphosa to convene a meeting with NUMSA, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and engineers from Eskom to put together a team to discuss how to save Eskom.

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