Although the Medupi and Kusile power stations are years behind their scheduled completion dates, workers building the new coal-fired stations are enjoying free meals to the tune of R1.4 billion. This is according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The report states that Eskom awarded two five-year catering contracts – which rank among the biggest in South Africa – to provide workers with hot meals and fresh fruit juice.
“Free meals served in huge dining areas on site include beef, chicken, mutton or vegetarian dishes; pap, rice, samp and beans; vegetables; fruit; fullcream milk; and fruit juice,” states the Sunday Times.
Executives are also catered for, and are provided with “special catering arrangements”, with the provision of hot meals for general workers a condition of service following protests over the serving of cold meals.
The two contracts are worth R787 million and R639 million – awarded to Lephalale Site Services and RoyalMnandi Duduza respectively. RoyalMnandi, according to the Sunday Times, is part of the Bidvest group, of which ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s wife, Nolwandle Mantashe, is a director.
According to the report, a new catering contract is expected to be implemented in 2015, which will push the total bill to over R2bn. This is despite both power stations being years behind schedule and over budget.
The Sunday Times stated that Eskom initially set the cost of building Medupi at R69 billion and Kusile at R80 billion. The projected costs have risen to an estimated R154 billion and R172 billion respectively
The wide array of meals on offer are not enough for some workers, however, and the newspaper quoted Numsa’s head of collective bargaining Steven Nhlapo as saying that the union wanted workers to have more choice at meal time. Everyone was having to eat chicken on one day and beef on another, and variety was needed, he said.
Eskom has come under fire from political parties and local citizens of late for the “energy crisis” the country was facing, with load shedding expected to be implemented across South Africa for the next 12 – 18 months.
The power utility has promised to try and keep the lights on over the festive season, though, with no blackouts expected during the holiday period.