The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) has threatened to end its support for the African National Congress (ANC) if government continues with its renewable energy programme, saying clean power will destroy jobs and create ghost towns in coal mining areas.
“Workers of this country will not continue to vote and support an organisation which is taking away jobs from the poor. We cannot perpetually campaign and vote for the so-called New Dawn as narrated by Cyril Ramaphosa,” the Num said in a statement on Wednesday.
Fin24 reported on Wednesday that Energy Minister Jeff Radebe signed contracts to the value of R56-billion with 27 independent power producers (IPPs).
The deal is expected to add 2 300 MW of electricity to the national grid over the next five years and brings policy certainty to the sector after several years of delays.
The Num's threat comes a year before general elections in 2019. The union, which is the third largest affiliate of trade union federation Cosatu, has previously played a role in drumming up support for the ANC in mining areas.
The Num singled out Radebe, a member of the South African Communist Party’s central committee, calling him a “communist turned capitalist”. They added that they view the signing of the contracts as an “insult to the working class and the poor”.
The union claims 40 000 jobs will be lost in the coal sector value chain as a result of renewable energy, and a town such as Welkom will cease economic activity.
The Num called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to “stop this (sic) nonsensical IPPs” and reverse the decision.
“The ANC-led government is privatising Eskom through the back door to satisfy their Davos handlers and white monopoly capital."
The union was one of the strongest supporters of its former general secretary’s bid for the ANC presidency, ahead of the party’s conference in December.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled on March 29 that the application by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and TransformRSA to halt the signing of the IPP deal was not urgent.
The union and the lobby group claimed the renewable energy programme will cause job losses and electricity price hikes.
Government however has stood firm on its decision, saying that job losses are due to old coal-fired power stations being decommissioned and that the renewable energy industry will create 58 000 jobs.