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‘No energy crisis solution without workers’

As SA is still in the tight grip of endless power cuts, Dr. Trevor Ngwane writes that workers are solution to the crisis gripping the country. IOL was the first site to publish this article.

Eskom blaming strikers for Stage 6 load shedding is laughable. We’re sick of load shedding after 14 years. Eskom and the ANC can’t solve the electricity crisis. Eskom’s blame of workers for the electricity crisis shows the importance of workers in finding solutions.

Energy crisis solutions require workers.

When discussing the electricity crisis, we can’t just focus on consumption. We complain about no lights, rotting food, broken robots, and failing small businesses. South Africa’s electricity shortage is at the heart of the problem. This requires more electricity. Who will make that electricity?

In discussions about increasing electricity production, workers are often overlooked. Eskom’s old coal power stations, malfunctioning new coal plants, and increasing renewable energy production are emphasized. Workers who manually produce electricity, build, maintain, and repair machines, and lay transmission cables are rarely mentioned. When workers go on strike and cause a crisis, we remember them.
The South African crisis is not just about electricity. All crises.

Jobs, water, homes, clinics, schools, and public transportation are scarce. This daily crisis hits the working class hardest. Capitalism’s history. Capitalists and their governments always put the system’s burden on workers.

The Centre for Sociological Research and Practice’s Energy Racism Research Report found that the black working class suffers most from the energy crisis.

Black working-class areas have been experiencing Stage 8 load shedding for a long time. Eskom’s load-reduction program is only in black working-class areas, according to research.

Mdantsane, Soshanguve, Umlazi, and other townships, villages, and shack settlements had more power outages than Sandton, Umhlanga Rocks, and Constantia. Some areas experienced weeks, months, or even years of blackouts due to load reduction, poor servicing, slow repair response, and infrastructure neglect. It’s as if everyone in apartheid’s black areas is punished.

Black workers dug Eskom’s coal and built the grid’s pylons during apartheid. After work, they’d go to “native locations” that weren’t electrified, “dark cities.” Under the ANC, colonial and apartheid injustices and oppressions continue.
Electricity is double-charged. They pay with labor and meager wages. Capitalism profits electricity production and consumption. Workers make bread in bakeries and cars in factories but go to bed hungry. The producers aren’t getting paid.

The solution to the energy crisis is obvious: Let the energy producers use it for free. Production must satisfy needs, not profits. Energy production must not profit capitalists. Privatization, commercialization, and financialization are Eskom’s problems. This prevents Eskom from producing enough renewable energy for all.

Eskom must stop buying renewables from independent power producers like diesel for its gas turbines. Nine million litres of diesel are consumed daily. Unsustainable. Diesel, coal, and now renewable energy are used to enrich white monopoly capital and the aspirant black bourgeoisie.

Capitalists and the capitalist government cannot solve Eskom’s energy crisis. Producers control production. Workers should run Eskom, not bosses. A working-class government can provide energy, food, water, healthcare, education, safety, public transport, and jobs for all.

* Trevor Ngwane teaches at the University of Johannesburg’s Sociology Department.

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