17 January 2013

South Africa: Medupi Violent Protests - Eskom Fumbling in the Dark

Photo: Saragoldsmith/Flickr
Power lines

press release

The DA will be asking the Department of Public Enterprises to urgently deploy mediators to the Medupi power station site to resolve on-going violent labour unrest and ensure worker safety.

Last Friday 1 100 workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and employed by energy technology company Alstom Kentz, embarked on protest action that led to those workers being locked out by the company.

Yesterday morning, workers employed by Hitachi Kaefer and Murray & Roberts Projects disrupted bus transport to the Medupi site, reportedly injuring 25 workers in the process.

These protests follow similar incidents of violent labour unrest experienced throughout the course of 2012.

The inevitable outcome has been accumulating delays in the construction of the power station. The total cost of these delays, including interest, amounted to R116 billion as of the middle of 2012. Given recent events, this figure has undoubtedly climbed.

Eskom simply cannot be allowed to continue botching the construction of the Medupi power station. Too much time and public money have already been invested, and it is deplorable that the lives of workers are now being threatened as a result of the construction.

In September last year I sent a letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises insisting that Eskom brief Parliament on the current state of the Medupi Project.

I was particularly interested in Eskom's plan to ensure worker safety as well as their plan to get the project back on schedule.

Four months down the line, it is clear to me that Eskom have no such plan.

I will therefore be writing to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, to insist that he deploy mediators to the Medupi site to comprehensively evaluate and resolve the labour disputes through engaging in remedial dialogue with workers and management.

Minister Gigaba also needs to ensure that Eskom produce a workable plan to get the construction project back on track and ensure worker safety. Failure to do so will just result in more unrest and greater delays down the line

Natasha Michael, Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises

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