050910 Electricity pylons carry power from Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant July 17, 2009. South Africa will need 20 gigawatts (GW) of new power generation capacity by 2020 and would require double that amount a decade later to meet rising demand, the country's power utility said September 7, 2009. Picture taken July 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA ENERGY BUSINESS)

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) will go to court over its right to picket outside the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) offices, the union's general secretary said on Sunday.

“It will either be Monday or Tuesday,” Irvin Jim said.

He said the legal papers were still being drafted.

Numsa planned to picket outside Nersa's offices in Arcadia in Pretoria for 18 hours from 6pm on Wednesday.

“The picket outside Nersa offices is part of Numsa’s campaign against Eskom’s application for a 16 percent average annual increase between 2013 and 2018.”

In a statement Jim said the picket would include an all-night candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening and protest action on Thursday morning.

Bishop Paul Verryn and Reverend Purity Malinga of the Methodist Church would lead the night vigil. Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is apparently set to join the vigil.

Jim said Numsa wanted to picket outside the Nersa offices because on Thursday the regulator would announce whether it granted a 16 percent annual electricity increase to take place over the next five years.

He said for the last two weeks Numsa has been negotiating without success with the SA police service and the City of Tshwane metropolitan police services to grant the union a permit to protest outside Nersa offices.

“Up to now the South African Police Services and City of Tshwane metropolitan police services have been unable to pronounce on the lawfulness of Numsa’s action outside Nersa offices although the union has applied for a permit”.

Jim said considerations about the protest taking place both during the day and the night - as well as apartheid-era legislation that defined Nersa offices as a protected 'key point' - appeared to be behind the delay.

With the picketing the union aimed to make its demands clear.

According to the union, Nersa should not grant the increase and Eskom should be given an inflation-related increase which must be implemented over three years instead of five.

The next three years must be used to come up with an alternative model for funding electricity generation.

“With all the evidence presented on how disastrous the electricity price hikes will be, as Numsa, we call on Nersa regulators not to act as if they are Eskom shop stewards and only think about the electricity utility.

“The regulators must think of workers, poor people and the country as a whole,” Jim said. - Sapa