Among the jabs EFF president Julius Malema took at President Cyril Ramaphosa and his state of the nation address (Sona) on Tuesday was the allegation that Ramaphosa is favouring business interests over the needs of the South African people in the proposed unbundling of power utility Eskom.
Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that Eskom would be broken into three parts – generation, transmission and distribution – and its non-core assets would be sold.
Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law Jeff Radebe is the minister of energy and his other brother-in-law Patrice Motsepe owns an energy company that may be interested in buying Eskom assets.
Malema echoed the concerns of labour unions that Eskom is heading towards privatisation, which could result in the mass shedding of jobs at Eskom.
Malema, in the Tuesday parliamentary debate, said the focus on buying power from independent power producers (IPPs) was already a form of privatisation, which Ramaphosa’s administration was continuing to support. He said that the power purchase agreements with the IPPs was forcing Eskom to buy power at unaffordable rates, which was “at the centre of Eskom’s problems” … “through an irrational business model”.
“We know that your friends, through Trevor Manuel and Old Mutual, and your relatives, through Patrice Motsepe, stand to benefit from the privatisation of Eskom. We want to tell you here that Eskom will not be privatised and no retrenchments will take place.
“If you proceed to privatise Eskom, rest assured that we, as the Economic Freedom Fighters, will confront your government and IPPs because they represent capitalist greed and obsession with money at the expense of our people.”
He claimed that Ramaphosa’s diagnosis of Eskom’s problems had not been thorough enough and focused only on the struggling finances of Eskom, and not the structural and strategic assets, and that his remedy was allegedly ensuring that Ramaphosa’s friends and family benefited from privatisation.
“Mr President, you have completely abandoned politics to impress white monopoly capital and the West.”
He alleged Ramaphosa’s “wrong diagnosis” would be like a doctor getting a patient’s diagnosis wrong and the remedy would then put the patient’s life at risk. Eskom would similarly be destroyed for “quick personal gains”.
He alleged that Ramaphosa put profit above people and that he was still favouring his business interests.
“You are still an active businessperson who just took leave to come and irritate us here,” he added.
Malema also touched on French energy company Total’s oil and gas discovery offshore, claiming that the find would benefit foreign multinationals far more than South Africans. He said such assets needed to be properly managed or they would become a resource curse, as had been the case for many developing countries.
“We demand that all oil and gas discoveries must be nationalised and a sovereign wealth fund be established like in Norway.”
He added that he would not be surprised if it later emerged that energy companies involved with the discovery were linked to Ramaphosa’s business interests.