While the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its affiliated unions welcome and support the Special Appropriation Bill, they have made a call for the funding to be premised on a clear turnaround plan that will not only save Eskom and its workers’ jobs, but also support the growth of the economy.

Speaking during the public hearings hosted by the Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations, Mr Matthew Parks, Cosatu’s Parliamentary Co-Ordinator, took heed of the fact that failure to supply Eskom with additional funding could result in 46 000 employees losing their jobs, and that will bring the country to a halt.

He reiterated the urgent need for Eskom’s turnaround strategy and said: “To date, we have not seen such a plan from the government. The nation and the economy can no longer afford any further delays.”

One of the major elements to keep in mind is the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC’s) R90 billion investment in Eskom, which he says is made up of the hard-earned pension and insurance funds of workers, who cannot afford to lose them.

Two of the major demands made by Cosatu and its affiliates, which include the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is that under no circumstances must Eskom be privatised, and no worker at Eskom should be retrenched. Mr Parks said: “No serious union can agree to see its members thrown into the unemployment queue. This is more so in an economy with almost 40% of workers being unemployed.”

Mr Parks also spoke about the urgent need for a plan to address Eskom’s external financial crisis, mainly the challenge of non-payment. One of the ways he suggested is by dealing with the Soweto non-payment issue, which amounts to about R17 billion, and to ensure that non-paying municipalities, which add to the crippling of the entity, are held to account. It was suggested that a national account for the payment of Eskom’s accounts should be considered.

The committees were appreciative of the views raised not only by Cosatu, but other key stakeholders. These include the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), which drew the committees’ attention to the above-inflation tariff increases and the contribution of this to the deepening levels of poverty, and the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), which recommended that alternative funding solutions, such as the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and other pension funds be considered.

By Felicia Lombard

12 September 2019