Picture: Sunday Times
Picture: Sunday Times

There was confusion on Tuesday as to whether the High Court in Pretoria forced Eskom to stop the now postponed signing of agreements with 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

While the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Transform RSA have argued they were victorious in getting the court to interdict Eskom from going ahead with the conclusion of the contracts, the Department of Energy said no interdict had been granted.

The ruling in the matter was delivered verbally on Monday night after Numsa and Transform RSA approached the court on an urgent basis to stop the signing from going ahead on Tuesday as planned.

The department insisted it had "voluntarily" postponed the finalisation of the contracts with the IPPs "in the spirit of constitutionalism and rule of law".

Numsa has been fighting for a "just transition", saying power purchase agreements between the IPPs and Eskom would result in a jobs bloodbath in the coal industry, with 30,000 workers set to lose employment if it was implemented.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said the IPP projects would help create 61,600 full-time jobs and add 2,305MW of electricity to the grid.

But Numsa has rejected the findings. It has also argued the deals would cripple Eskom’s ailing financial state.

Radebe has argued that the ripple effects of the energy deal would be the opposite of what Numsa described.

According to the government, the programme would ensure consumers had access to cost-efficient clean energy that would attract much-needed investment and jobs.

The department said that it would announce the new date for the signing of contracts on March 27, after the court had heard both arguments.

Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi told Business Day the union and Transform RSA were granted the interdict on Monday night. She dismissed the statement issued by Radebe, saying the department had not postponed the signing on its own accord.

Transform RSA could not be reached for comment.

The department said it would "vigorously defend" the rights of consumers by implementing the clean energy programme.

Meanwhile, Numsa has tabled its demand to make submissions to the National Energy Regulator, Eskom and the minister on the "implications" of the IPPs for its members.

"They were attempting to impose this deal on us without consultation, but we stopped them," said the union.