Electricity power lines and cooling towers at Eskom Holdings Ltd’s Kendal coal-fired power station in Delmas. Nadine Hutton Bloomberg

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday said they would be marching to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against Independent Power Producers (IPPs), retrenchments, the privatisation of Eskom, the closure of power stations and coal mines.

NUM deputy president Philip Vilakazi said the union does not support what was currently happening at Eskom and was vehemently opposed to the department of energy signing the 27 IPPs agreements, among other concerns.

"We call upon all workers organised in the mining, energy and construction sectors, community members, truck associations, our sister unions in Cosatu, the ANC alliance partners to prepare themselves so that they can join us on Saturday to peacefully march in a protest against the IPPs and the privatisation of Eskom through backdoors," said Vilakazi.

"We are extremely worried about the thousands of jobs that are going to be destroyed in Mpumalanga."

Vilakazi said the most painful thing was that the renewable energy produced by the IPPs was going to be sold through Eskom. 

"We are saying and we have said that Eskom is a government entity, if the IPPs have got power to generate, let them stand alone and compete with Eskom. The NUM is going to defend these jobs."

He said that power utility Eskom, amongst some of its measures to remedy the financial situation, resorted to rather cutting jobs instead of solving its real challenges. When the public was told that there was surplus electricity and that there was a drop in sales, the department of energy forced Eskom to sign Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the IPPs even when Eskom indicated that the country could not afford them. 

"Eskom is owed more than R13 billion by municipalities, it means that workers produced electricity that was meant to be sold and it has now been donated for free to these municipalities as a charity case. More painful is that the executives of these municipalities sold the electricity and never paid Eskom what is due to them," said Vilakazi.

"If the municipalities were to pay their outstanding debt alone, Eskom would have reported positive profits of at least R10 billion in the last financial year and there would not be any talks of bloating and restructuring."

The government must scrap PPAs with the IPPs. The government must pay the outstanding municipality bills. Eskom problems will be solved and the public will be spared from the ever-rising electricity increases.

"We will fight privatisation of Eskom and retrenchments with all we have, no matter at whose irritation that will be and we will stop at nothing but victory," said Vilakazi.

- African News Agency (ANA)