Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

It is gobsmacking. Late on Monday night, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and a little-known body called Transform RSA asked the courts to stop energy minister Jeff Radebe from signing 27 contracts with independent power producers (IPPs).

This latest round of IPP deals could unlock R56bn in new investment. So why would Numsa stand in its way?

The union argues that clean energy projects would force Eskom to reduce its coal use, which would lead to the closure of coal-fired plants and job losses.

But Numsa’s shortsightedness only illustrates how far removed it is from the industries in which it claims to operate. Dependence on coal-fired power has dropped worldwide — for environmental reasons, but also because it is no longer regarded as a cheap energy source.

Numsa also isn’t honest about the success of the renewables programmes. The latest round will create 61,000 full-time jobs. And unlike Eskom’s investment in coal-fired stations, the IPP projects will have no effect on government’s contingent liabilities before 2020, as their construction is funded by the private sector.

Numsa and its mother body Cosatu’s objections are nothing short of economic sabotage. Though Radebe says the signing will go ahead, we should be outraged by attempts like these to haul us back to the intransigence of the Jacob Zuma years.