It would be a major strategic error to privatise Eskom in any way, the SA Communist Party said on Sunday.
In a statement, after the conclusion of the party’s three day central committee meeting in Johannesburg, the SACP said separating power generation from transmission would compromise the ability to effectively manage the network.
“[This is] particularly at a time when fine-tuning is required owing to the current tight margins of supply. No less important, the hiving off and commercialisation of transmission will weaken the ability to direct energy to areas of greatest need,” the party said.
“Furthermore, apart from any ideological considerations, selling off parts of Eskom at this time when the global market value of energy producers is at rock-bottom and when, in the case of Eskom, any private buyer would benefit both from a low price and the future fruits of the current massive Eskom infrastructure spend.”
Privatisation would also result in significant increases in the cost of electricity for households and industry.
The SACP said Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and acting CEO Brian Molefe accepted invitations to interact with the central commitee in regards to Eskom.
“These inputs underlined a far-reaching congruence on our strategic perspectives on Eskom and the required short- and medium-term interventions to address Eskom’s immediate challenges,” the party said.
The party said the current financial challenges facing Eskom were not impossible to overcome. It supported an approach where Eskom took on more bond debt, rather than selling off equity, because doing so would compromise the strategic management of Eskom in the public interest.
“The SACP calls on government, in line with the ANC’s NEC lekgotla resolutions, to clearly reaffirm the central role of Eskom in any future energy build, including nuclear, as well as the importance of Eskom remaining active in the field of alternative energy sources,” it said.
“Minister Brown and the CC [central committee] agreed that none of the above perspectives detract from the imperative of getting Eskom’s own house in order. The SACP calls on government to deal decisively with the plundering of Eskom resources by private sector suppliers of coal, diesel and much else with the connivance of some within Eskom itself.”
The party criticised the politics of money and factional control of “membership cards and attendance records” entrenching itself in many branch structures, especially in its ally, the African National Congress.
“This behaviour is, in effect, a betrayal of the national democratic revolution and of the values of our movement.”
The central committee noted the tabling of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s Nkandla report on Thursday.
“It is important to remember that this is a report that is responding to a request from a parliamentary committee and it must still be thoroughly debated in Parliament,” it said.
“The CC does not wish, at this point, to enter into a debate on the merits or otherwise of security requirements and financial responsibilities.”
However, the SACP did reiterate that the cost of the security upgrades to the President Jacob Zuma’s residence were unacceptable and clearly “there had been gross inflation of both the scope of the work and the costs involved”.
“In part, this has been due to the failure of government to implement a 2003 cabinet decision to establish clear norms and standards for residential upgrades for sitting and former state presidents,” the SACP said.
“This open-endedness has clearly been exploited by unscrupulous private contractors and by state officials manipulating supply chain processes. This failure must now be corrected as a matter of urgency – we cannot have a repeat of this embarrassment in the future.”