The South African Communist Party (SACP) rejects the privatisation of Eskom or any part of it, and will take action to confront such a move should it be implemented. The SACP also wishes to place it on record that the Party has consistently been invited, and has honoured all the invitations to participate in the African National Congress (ANC) Lekgotla meetings. While respecting the independence of the ANC to take its own decisions, there was never an ANC Lekgotla that decided that Eskom must be privatised.
In order to solve the challenges that Eskom is faced with we must go back to the root!
South Africa cannot repeat taking wrong decisions which produced the problems we are facing and hope to achieve solutions!
Back before 1994 South Africa had surplus electricity capacity and amongst the cheapest electricity in the world – but this was electricity supplied mainly to the mines and smelters and to white suburbs, while our villages and townships relied on paraffin, coal and wood.
The new democratic government used Eskom for a major drive to electrify households. The first household electricity connections began in South Africa in the early 1890s. Between then and 1994, only five million households based on racism were connected to electricity. Since 1994, a further seven million households were electrified. This means that in twenty years our majority-rule democratic government has connected more households to electricity than it took successive white minority supremacist regimes a whole century!!
But while we were carrying out this major redistributive effort, government, under the neo-liberal influence of the 1996 class project and guided by the economic policy called Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) which was imposed in that year, neglected the task of building more electric generation capacity and of refurbishing and expanding the transmission and distribution network.
Eskom engineers warned of the approaching capacity problems. But their warnings were disregarded by the 1996 class project – they believed that Eskom could be privatised and that would solve future problems.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a drive to sell off Eskom; instead of investing in electric power generation capacity, the privatisation logic of capital accumulation left this important developmental imperative in the hands of the private sector. But then there were no private sector buyers – for the simple reason that Eskom’s regulated prices and developmental responsibilities meant that there were no fat profits to be made.
Valuable time was lost while the 1996 class project vainly tried to attract buyers. Eventually this policy was reversed, but by this time many skills had been lost in Eskom – the last major power station had commenced construction back in the 1970s. When it came to building major new power stations – Medupi and Kusile – Eskom’s own in-house construction and project management skills were depleted. This has been part of the problem behind the delays and cost over-runs at these sites, in addition to the problem of under-developed capacity to supply increasing electricity demand in the advent of our 1994 democratic breakthrough.
Of course, it is Eskom that is being blamed in the media and by the opposition parties.
And now the vultures are circulating around Eskom. They want parts or whole of Eskom privatised. They want to use the financing challenges to cherry-pick.
If privatised, Eskom’s assets will be used to feed the market logic of profit making and profit maximisation, away from meeting the social and energy needs of the people. The vultures want to leave Eskom with ageing power-stations, while its lucrative assets are conveyed to the capitalist private ownership of profit-seekers.
We must not allow the vultures to destroy Eskom. Instead:
We must now take forward the important capacity that Eskom has re-built through the Medupi process, and through the refurbishment of older power stations. We must not throw these capacities away and lose another twenty years.
Eskom must be given a mining licence for coal – so that it does not have to depend on profit-maximising private suppliers.
Eskom used to have a mining licence, but its old mines are now in the hands of private sector, for-profit mining companies.
In addition, alternative financing models must be found for municipalities. Municipalities take Eskom electricity and then add an extra amount to the price charged to households and other clients, this has a negative impact on poor communities.
The SACP says: NO TO THE FRAGMENTATION OF ESKOM! NO TO THE PRIVATISATION OF ESKOM!
WE SHALL DEFEND AND BUILD ESKOM AS A PUBLIC RESOURCE!
Issued by the SACP