Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEON SADIKI

President Cyril Ramaphosa's plan to split Eskom into three separate entities is being strongly opposed by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Ramaphosa said in his state of the nation address  (Sona) on Thursday that Eskom would be broken up into three state-owned entities: generation, transmission and distribution.

He also said that noncore assets of state-owned enterprises would be sold but that there would be no privatisation of strategic state-owned assets.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said on Friday the break-up of Eskom was “nothing more than privatisation through the back door”, which was rejected by the union.

“Only an Eskom which is completely owned and controlled by the state is the best guarantee for cheap electricity. History has shown us that once the private sector is allowed to step in, prices increase and massive job shedding is inevitable,” Jim said in a statement. 

“The unbundling of Eskom will result in massive retrenchments and job losses. For the consumer, it will mean that electricity will cost more, and it will be even more inaccessible to the poor and the working class.

“The battle lines have been drawn. The state has officially declared war on the working class.”

The NUM said in a statement that it “totally rejects” the plan to break up Eskom.

“The unbundling of Eskom will result in massive job losses and retrenchments in provinces like Mpumalanga,” it said.

“We call upon the government to reconsider its position because it is anti-working class and the poor. It will result in electricity being expensive and it will be unaffordable to the poor. The NUM is going to fight tooth and nail against the unbundling the Eskom.”

On the other hand, the DA said Ramaphosa’s announcement on Eskom did not go far enough because the three entities would still fall under the same holding board.

This would limit the possibility of stimulating competition in the generation sector.

“It also does not go far enough by preparing the generation unit for privatisation to place it on an equal competitive footing with other independent power producers, nor does it allow well-functioning metros to be able to source energy directly by independent energy suppliers,” the DA's spokesperson on public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, said.

“Overall, the plan will not ensure a stable supply of electricity at reduced cost for consumers into the long-term."