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Johannesburg – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is calling for a national shutdown to protest against moves by Eskom to close several coal-fired power stations because it has an oversupply of electricity and to make way for Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

In a lengthy statement on Friday morning Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said his union could not sit back and watch the destruction of jobs.

"The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is gearing up for the mother of all strikes in its bid to fight the looming crisis at Eskom," said Jim.

Last week the power utility announced that it will be shutting down several power stations in Mpumalanga because it had an oversupply of electricity.

The closure of these plants is also to make way for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) which the government has committed itself to. "The CEO of Eskom confirmed through the media that these changes will result in at least 30 000 people losing their jobs, not just in Eskom, but in related sectors as well," said Jim.

Read also: NUMSA to strike over Eskom plan

"As Numsa we cannot simply sit back and allow Eskom, and this government to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families. In an environment where there are high levels of poverty and escalating unemployment, we believe that every job counts. "Numsa is challenging Eskom’s view that there is surplus electricity. The truth of the matter is that electricity has become extremely expensive because of price drivers, in particular coal.

"Also, what Eskom perceives as surplus energy is due to the closure of many companies which were unable to afford the high cost of electricity. In essence Eskom is directly responsible for high levels of de-industrialisation."

'Economy to its knees'

Numsa, which is the largest metalworkers union in South Africa and the continent, was in 2014 expelled from the Congress of South African Unions (Cosatu). Along with the SA Communist Party, Cosatu and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) are part of the tripartite alliance. The fallout has often resulted in public disagreements between Numsa and the ANC-led government.

"We have 350 000 workers and we are represented in numerous sectors, including mining, transportation, and energy. In light of the national crisis of job losses in the energy sector, we will mobilise in all sectors, to implement a national shutdown of all services," Jim said.

"We will bring this economy to its knees. We will mobilise communities to hold demonstrations and pickets because this crisis affects them too. It is clear to us that this programme is not only premature, but foolish as it will result in the destruction of our communities, and ultimately it will destroy any hope of us tackling inequality in South Africa.

"For the last two decades the ANC has simply sustained and defended the growth of wealth of the already filthy rich small, mostly white elite section of the population." Jim said Numsa is also calling for an urgent meeting with the ministers of energy, public enterprises and the department of mineral resources.

Numa has warned that the cost of electricity supplied by IPPs is much more expensive than present costs.

Read also: Cosatu supports coal truck drivers' strike

"We are calling on the provincial leadership of the Mpumalanga Province, including its municipalities to participate. We will also be engaging in bilateral meetings with all employers in the affected sectors, including coal, and trucking companies."

The Numsa general secretary said his union was calling on patriotic South Africans to defend jobs and save the economy. "Numsa has approached the leadership of the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] on how we can combine forces against our common enemy, the exploitative and parasitic structures of white monopoly capital," said Jim.

"We are of the view that we should set aside our differences, combine forces and defend workers jobs. We need to meet urgently to strategise and fight the ANC which clearly has an agenda to destroy jobs. We have no choice, we must unite and fight them."

Jim added: "Numsa calls on all patriotic South Africans, employed or unemployed, young and old who care about the future of this country, to mobilise behind this campaign. We are fighting for the right to be able to live a dignified life and to be able to support our families and develop our communities. We must organise or starve".