Unions have Radebe by the balls over coal

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By John Fraser

I have no idea about the size of Energy Minister Jeff Radebe’s testicles, and – despite the rumours – I have no great interest in this.

What I do know is that whether they are small, medium, large, or extra large, there are vice-like union hands squeezing them, and delaying the Minister’s move to a cleaner energy strategy.

Proof of this came today, Sunday.

There was no rest for the wicked – as we in the media are clearly regarded – because we were summoned to a ministerial sermon, far longer and less inspiring than the ones which (some of us) enjoy each Sabbath.

Radebe, in response to some prodding in the Q&A session, admitted that his grand plan for future energy strategy, which has been delayed time after time after time, after time to the power of ten, is in limbo.

Consultation is over, the broad lines are known – a move away from coal, no new nuclear, more gas and renewables.

However, Nedlac – that murky body in which government, the unions and business regularly shout at one another – has yet to deliver its blessing.

Without being too abusive to the unions, Radebe made it clear that their determination to hold on to jobs in a polluting extractive industry, for which no new bank finance or international agency funding will be forthcoming, is a major concern.

With an election looming, the ministerial globes are in hostile hands.

It was not his finest hour.  When asked about the corrupt and profligate Central Energy Fund and the incompetently run state energy firms under its (and ultimately his) control, he brushed the question aside, saying it was not the subject of this briefing.

It seems some things are too evil and satanic for a Sabbath session.

He was also reluctant to take any blame for the way in which the state-owned power utility Eskom has deliberately put the brakes on new projects by Independent Power Producers, even though he was a senior member of a past Cabinet which was supposed to oversee Eskom on behalf of the taxpayer.

Instead, he suggested things are back to normal now he is Energy Minister, conveniently forgetting the union bollock-battering that he is receiving, and the delays this is forcing in getting on with energy policy.

He admitted that Eskom’s influence forced out of business manufacturing firms linked to the renewable energy business.  But, seemingly, the buck has stopped a million miles away from his own door.

One can say of Radebe that he is an improvement on what came before.   Which is not saying a lot.

The recent return of revolving power cuts, constant reports of billions of rand purloined across Eskom, and the need for South Africa to meet its climate change obligations all demonstrate the need for courageous and decisive leadership.

Which was not evident in Jeff Radebe’s news conference today.

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