Union ‘holding nation to ransom’ with ‘violent’ Eskom coal protests – DA

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla

The party accuses the Truckers Association of South Africa of ‘criminal activity’ at two of the utility’s coal suppliers.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to “intervene immediately” in a bid to stop ongoing protests at Eskom coal suppliers in Mpumalanga, which have reportedly turned violent.

“Once again, a union holds a nation to ransom by limiting coal supply,” said the party on Twitter, referring to the Truckers Association of South Africa (TASA), who the party accuses of sowing unrest through its role in the protests, and of “criminal activity”.

The phone number listed for TASA is not operational, and an email sent to the union had not been responded to at the time of publication.

In a statement, the DA accuses the union of jeopardising SA’s energy security, at a time when several units have broken down, leading to the grid being “severely constrained” with potential blackouts on the table.

“The actions of TASA are indicatively criminal in nature. TASA have chosen to protest in a manner that prevents some employees from gaining access to their places of work, and are intimidating others with threats to their personal safety in these workspaces.

“These acts are also compromising the energy security of our state. It is wholly unacceptable for a union to hold a nation to ransom by limiting the coal supply to a national keypoint structure,” said the party.

READ MORE: Eskom is the ‘single biggest threat’ to SA’s future, says Maimane

The Sowetan reported on Monday that an estimated R8.1 million a day was being lost at Mzimkhulu due to the ongoing protests.

According to the DA, protesting truck owners in the eMalahleni area have been accused of intimidation and damage to property following protests at two Eskom coal providers, Mzimkhulu Mining and SG Coal.

“The unlawful actions also result in non-fulfilment of contractual commitments towards Eskom. The mine had to shut down for the day because nobody was allowed access,“ said Mzimkhulu’s Mack Maleka.

The two companies have approached the high court to seek an urgent interdict against TASA.

In a statement, the party also demanded assurance that a conflict of interest was declared, as one of the directors of a company targeted in the protests – Mzimkhulu Mining – is Eskom board chairperson and acting CEO Jabu Mabuza’s brother-in-law Themba Langa.

Eskom media head Nto Rikhotso said Mabuza had indeed declared this conflict of interest.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)

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