With the working-class organization being so weak over the years, many issues and crises go on without resistance and opposition from the affected. It was another effort to organise resistance once more when a number of organisations came together at the West Campus, Witwatersrand University on 29 April 2023 to form the Energy Crisis Assembly led by the Climate Justice Coalition (CJC) and Cry of the Xcluded (CoX).
Programme facilitator, Princess Majola called different speakers to make contributions from the front and there were discussions from the floor.
The Energy Crisis Assembly was attended by different sectors within the social justice movement, some of which are not directly involved in the energy campaign. There were notable absentees, from the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
Matthews Hlabane, Director at Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council, warned that the politicians and the big business cadre are now also raving about an energy transition too but that theirs is not about justice.
Discussion about Eskom and the crisis it faces formed the much of the focus for a few speakers. Gift Radebe from the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation (EEO) said that communities had a big stake in the struggle for a just energy transition. He said that they wanted the assembly platform to tackle problems of poverty, environmental issues, pollution, Eskom, and socio-economic problems.
Radebe explained that a focus on green energy can help alleviate poverty. Part of the problem is that mining companies leave cracks in the soil, and it cannot be used by community members for producing food. According to the young environmentalist from the EEO, the productivity of the soil in mining towns has been declining owing to global warming.
Hadebe said, “We cannot make [a] profit at the expense of host communities,” adding by saying that “green energy is the alternative.”
Most speakers said that loadshedding was a big problem for them. Trevor Shaku, the National Spokesperson of Saftu, said that the deals signed by the national government amounted to the undermining of South Africa’s monetary sovereignty.
Cecelia from the Women Informal Traders Forum the municipality made them pay for electricity even for the times it is off due to loadshedding. She said a privatised Eskom was a nightmare because workers already cannot afford private healthcare, electricity bills would be sky-high if Eskom fell into private hands.
Sunny from Debt for Climate criticised the turnout at the event, noting its gravity should have attracted more participation.
There were also visitors from Eswatini representing Pudemo (People’s United Democratic Movement) which is fighting for the total abolition of monarchy and the establishment of democracy in the tiny southern African country. The speaker from Pudemo, Penuel Malinga, urged South Africans to boycott King Mswati III to force him to have a taste of the reality of most Swatis.
Andile Zulu made a lengthy presentation on the need for a green Eskom and the sources of the problems at the power utility company today, referencing the Eskom White Paper of 1998, and criticising the ‘full cost recovery’ model the energy company operates on.
Zulu said, “the biggest resource that is missing is people who are willing to do the work.”
Anita said the campaign should begin to orient towards workers who are directly affected by loadshedding at work, to boost the popularity of the struggle.
Ferron Pedro, who was a chief organiser of the event, told delegates that “we cannot afford private services such as education and healthcare”, saying the rich were not using their riches anyway but that the money goes to sit while inequality increased.
Pinky Mashiane, President of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa complained that loadshedding only meant their workers became shorter which reduced their wages.
This article was submitted on 30 April 2023. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.