Load-shedding not only undermines South Africa’s fundamental rights but is also collapsing the economy, costing the country thousands of jobs.
This is the view of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
NUMSA was one of the organisations involved in the multi-stakeholder court action that took the state to court over load-shedding.
“We argued that the rolling blackouts were undermining the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution – where the state has a duty to provide education, access to healthcare, and guarantee safety,” Hlubi-Majola told SABC News.
“The fact that we have these daily constant blackouts, also known as load-shedding, means that those rights are being undermined.”
Earlier this month, the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of NUMSA and the other stakeholders’ case, declaring that load-shedding violates human rights.
The court ordered Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to ensure hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations are unaffected.
This followed a similar ruling in May, where the same court ruled hospitals, clinics, state schools, and police stations should not be subject to load-shedding.
In his ruling, Judge Norman Davis ordered Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to “take all reasonable steps” within 60 days to ensure these facilities do not endure power cuts.
The judgment said the state failed in its constitutional and statutory duties to ensure citizens’ rights to healthcare, security, and education.
The case was brought by 19 applicants against Eskom, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and others to declare load-shedding unconstitutional, including NUMSA, the UDM, Action SA, the IFP, BOSA, and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
“That victory was really important for the working class to ensure that we guarantee energy in those critical sectors,” Hlubi-Majola said.
“But at the same time, our economy is also collapsing as a result of load-shedding.”
She said NUMSA has experienced massive job losses in small and medium-sized enterprises as companies are closing down and other companies have downsized “because most companies frankly can’t afford generators and can’t afford to conduct business without regular electricity”.
She said NUMSA would take the state to court again if it is unwilling to reconnect the power stations and units it shut down as part of the energy transition.
“We are going to take them to court as another measure to compel them to guarantee energy for all sectors in this country,” she said.
Hlubi-Majola said the economy can recover from the effects of load-shedding, but the country needs a radical shift in the thinking of the leaders and politicians tasked with making these decisions.
“Part of our crisis is that the ANC government has taken a decision to de-industrialise. They have shifted away from a focus on manufacturing and heavily focused on the financial services sector,” she said.
“That decision is part of why we have such high levels of joblessness, coupled with the fact that we’ve got extremely high levels of load-shedding.”
“There needs to be a radical shift in the policy decisions we’ve taken to ensure that we can actually recover the jobs that are lost.”
Hlubi-Majola’s comments come after Arcelor Mittal South Africa (AMSA) announced that it would shut its long steel products business and cut as many as 3,500 jobs.
The company attributed this decision to the country’s weak economy.
“If this is a caring state, if this is a state that is serious about job creation, then they should actually work with us to reach out to AMSA and to find a real solution to ensure that those jobs are not lost and to find a way to keep those plants open so that we don’t lose any more jobs,” Hlubi-Majola said.