The Eskom Megawatt Park headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
The Eskom Megawatt Park headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The country’s biggest trade union for metal workers is calling for the Eskom board to be replaced as the power utility battles to keep SA’s lights on.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) lambasted the board of the power utility on Sunday, saying it was “incompetent” and that it and the government had failed to fix Eskom.

Despite welcoming the resignation of Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, the union said more action needed to be taken by the ANC national leadership, including the appointment of a new minister of public enterprises to replace Pravin Gordhan.

“Numsa wants to reiterate its call to the president that the time is now to remove the Eskom board and minister Pravin Gordhan and ensure that Eskom has leadership with the necessary requisite skills and that the board must be reconstituted with representatives from labour, business and civil society with at least 70% of the board comprising of engineers,” the union said.

“It is the Eskom board, management and the ministers starting with minister Jeff Radebe and Pravin [Gordhan] who are responsible for the mess that Eskom finds itself in,” the union said.

The power utility resumed rolling blackouts last week. The state-owned entity, which is battling debt of about R450bn and underperforming power stations, is seen as a huge risk to the domestic economy.

A move by the World Bank on Wednesday to cut SA’s 2020 growth forecast from 1.5% to 0.9%, citing poor electricity supply as one of the “overlapping constraints”, has increased the pressure on the government to turn around Eskom.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the ruling party would speed up the process of transforming Eskom to ensure the state-owned entity runs efficiently.

Moody’s Investors Service, which is expected to give a ratings review on SA in the first quarter of 2020, has highlighted concern about the strain that Eskom could have on the country’s fiscal situation.

Eskom said on Sunday that no load-shedding was expected for the day. It was working to return units from planned and unplanned outages.

“The additional capacity brought on line, as well as lower demand over the weekend, has allowed us to replenish our pumped storage schemes, and we continue to work to improve on the levels of diesel at our open-cycle gas turbine generators,” it said.

mjoo@businesslive.co.za