Do not help with unbundling, unions demand of Eskom - but utility says it never got the memo

The National Union of Mineworkers and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa say they kept their December promise and marched to Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter's office on Wednesday afternoon, urging him not to implement plans to break Eskom into three entities.

The re-organisation of Eskom was a key point in President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address in 2019, where he announced the plan as a means of enhancing transparency and manageability of the struggling power utility.

The plan also found expression in Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan's Eskom roadmap, released later in 2019.

However, unions have taken issue with the idea since it was announced.

In a sound clip shared with Fin24 on Wednesday, NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said one of the main demands tabled to De Ruyter in a memorandum was that he should not facilitate breaking Eskom into three entities.

'Cancel IPPs'

"At the heart of the demands, which we submitted in a memorandum to management, was to immediately stop with unbundling Eskom. The unbundling of Eskom will not solve Eskom's problems.

"Eskom's problems, as we all know, are related to the fact that it is hugely in debt, it is technically insolvent and by breaking it up into three parts, you are not solving that problem," said Hlubi-Majola.

She added that, if De Ruyter wanted to fix Eskom, he had to shift his attention towards the costs of coal and the financial impact that independent power producer deals had on Eskom.

"We demanded that they must immediately cancel the IPPs (independent power producers) because they are wreaking havoc with Eskom's balance sheet. We are also demanding an immediate intervention into the cost of coal.

"We demand that those costs be cancelled or renegotiated because they are having a massive impact on Eskom's balance sheet," Hlubi-Majola said.

She repeated NUMSA's previous calls for Gordhan's resignation, saying that the minister demonstrated "no ability" to manage Eskom out of its crisis.

On Wednesday evening, Eskom Tweeted denying that it had received any memorandum. In a response to broadcaster SAFM, it confirmed that the unions had picketed, but added no memorandum had been received.